It is a calm space with softened acoustics for the pupils at this school who range in age from 7 up to 16 and all have SEN and disabilities. It can be accessed from the surrounding classrooms and from double doors from the school hall allowing children to use it to take time out from class when needed to restore a sense of calm.
The primary route through the courtyard is defined clearly in colour and texture by a curved wet pour path that winds through a bespoke steel canopy. which has made it become an exciting journey that will feel different depending n the season and weather. The sculptural curved steel structure provides a sense of enclosure and has two seating areas for social interactions or quiet contemplation. There are good sight-lines through the structure to enable staff supervision. The frame is lead in a combination of timber and coloured perspex panels that cast coloured shadows over the space in sunlight.
We have chosen astroturf to carpet the zones either side of the path for it’s ability to soften the acoustics of the courtyard. It is also a tactile surface for sitting on and makes the space more like a garden.
A large circular planter bed has been placed in a sunny spot surrounded by a deck with segments different textures including stones painted by the pupils. It forms a low level bench and a good surface from which to tend the highly scented plants which will be planted in the Spring. Gardening is very popular at the school and the courtyard already had existing planters which have been repositioned to fit with the new design.
The movement of water and its sensory properties of sound, light refraction and touch was very important to the school, the existing water sphere was converted to solar power and placed in the middle of a new planter bed. It provides constant water movement and sound.
Outdoor bubble tubes provide colour changing water movement and we have placed these to be seen from inside the building as well as being enjoyed from outside. They look wonderful at dusk.
Utilising an existing drainage channel in the courtyard we designed a simple water play feature served by a push tap that feeds a small amount of water into the channels at a time. Children can touch and maniple the water as it flows downhill.