Book influences design of new school

TRIANGULAR classrooms and large open learning areas are just two of the unusual features of a ground-breaking new high school currently being built in Monkseaton.

Leading north east architects Dewjo'c won the contract to design the exemplary new 20.3million state-of-the-art building.

Planning permission was granted to construct the new Monkseaton High school, on Seatonville Road in January. Due for completion in summer 2009 it will provide 938 places for 13 to 19- year-olds.

Dewjo'c's design for the flagship school is based on the exemplar principles laid out by the UK government in 2002 and will create a light, modern, 21st century facility.

The architects worked closely with engineering consultancy Parsons Brinckerhoff, the school's headteacher, leading academic Dr Paul Kelley, and his deputy John Sexton, both of whom are instrumental in developing stimulating teaching environments that maximise pupils learning potential.

The design of Monkseaton High was also influenced by the book 'Rhythms of Life', by Russell Foster – a professor of molecular neuroscience – and Leon Kreitzman, which shows that humans have natural biorhythms which govern their daily lives.

In children this makes them most productive between the hours of 10.30am and 3pm, when their body clocks are in sync with daylight.

The basic design envisages an educational community stacked within a large protective shell.

The school will be orientated to ensure maximum natural ventilation and daylight, helping boost students learning potential in line with Foster's biorhythm discoveries.

The design incorporates a number of learning areas for students to study, independent of teachers.

The building's light and airy atmosphere will encourage 'open' learning and is a move away from traditional, 'institutional' school design. Clear walls and open learning spaces remove barriers created by solid corridors and doors.

Unlike conventional school buildings, the design for Monkseaton High School aims to maximise space within classrooms, providing teaching spaces and learning areas which will be multifunctional and flexible.

Spaces can be quickly re-arranged and equipment easily stored away so, for example, a room full of desks and chairs used to teach humanities could quickly become a technical arts space or ICT.

At the heart of the school will be a central space combining private learning areas, a Learning Resource Centre, teaching spaces, social and break out areas as well as a gym and sports facility. Monkseaton High School will be built using highly sustainable materials, methodologies and construction techniques.

Ian Lancastle-Smith, the Dewjo'c director leading the project, said: "The same team that worked on the design of award winning Usworth Sixth Form College, which recently won the RIBA/LSC Further Education Award for Design Excellence Architectural Design 2008, is also involved in this project.

"This is an exciting and challenging design project that maximises the use of space and encourages teaching and learning in a modern, state-of-the-art environment." We are very much looking forward to seeing the design becoming a reality.

“It has been a rewarding experience working closely with the school’s management team, staff and students on all aspects of design, environment, teaching and learning spaces, with support form the Children Young People and Learning at North Tyneside Council, an essential element of the design development process.”

Turning the design into a structural reality involved complex modelling by Parsons Brinckerhoff, which was also responsible for creating sustainable design solutions for the heating, lighting, acoustics and fire engineering systems for the innovative structure.

Mike Lamb, Newcastle-based technical director for Parsons Brinckerhoff, said: “We are proud to be part of this ground breaking project. Dewjo’c’s outstanding design has certainly challenged our technical skills and will set new standards for learning environments across the country. It is especially satisfying for us to be able to contribute to the development of the local community and play a role in helping transform education in the North East.”