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Learning Landscapes: A School for Thetford.

Part 1 Project 2011
Artur FéLix Da Cruz
University of East London London | UK
It is the aim of this project to dignify both users and place.

Learning Landscapes: A School for Thetford, Shadows and interacts with a ‘live’ project initiated by a group of educators under and subverting the Free School System. Their project aims to provide a positive learning environment for kids who are failed by mainstream schooling. The school ethos places an emphasis on ‘learning through doing’, and advocates a teaching system based around physical learning, often outdoors.

This live project was a setting-out point from which the key components of my project developed. I looked closely at the physical, material, and historical landscape in order to repair what I perceive to be a frayed town fabric.

This repair has a physical form, rebuilding the street/perimeter, and re-inhabiting and re-animating the derelict core. It has a programmatic component a ‘parallel programs’ that inhabit the same site as the school; enhances the ‘outdoor learning’ aspect of the curriculum; provide opportunities for bridging activity between the school and the wider town. The proposed ‘parallel programs’ are a restaurant and workshops which can be used by the school and hope foster small businesses. In this way the proposal makes formal use of two local precedents: the adjacent ruins of Thetford Priory with its monastic cloister; and the previous occupants of the site, the 19th century Charles Burrell engineering works. Both were in their turn significant economic forces in the town. The proposal anchors and materialises two axis- from the town centre to the Priory ruins (E/W), and across the site (N/S).

The proposed materials: flint, clunch(chalk block) & wood, are drawn from the local area and utilised in deliberately simple ways; these materials are sustainable and make physical the desire to re-make the town fabric. A legible construction strategy makes possible the building of the school in phases, as the school grows. Allowing the students to participate in the building process, develop skills and gain ownership and, hopefully, a sense of community or common good.

Learning Landscapes: A School for Thetford proposes an architecture for social and personal dignity.

Artur FéLix Da Cruz


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