St. Luke’s CE Aided Primary School, Wolverhampton
By Coe Design Landscape Architecture
As the recipient of nine leading awards, including the RIBA Sorrell Foundation award, St. Luke’s Primary School provides the surrounding community in Wolverhampton with a radical new sustainable primary school at the heart of the Blakenhall regeneration area. The first school in the UK to receive a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating, Coe Design’s landscape for the site was delivered as part of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme in Wolverhampton and the ABCD New Deal for Communities Regeneration programme.
The landscape has been designed expressly to encourage children to engage with nature, for the sheer enjoyment of being outside and to assist with learning. The practice’s design for the school responds to all the key stages of the education curriculum, focusing on creative learning through play, exercise and interaction. The project was developed in close consultation with the existing community and constructed in two phases to minimise disruption – utilising the original Infant school until the new building and core landscape spaces were ready for occupation.
Productive gardens are located across the grounds, providing staff with a unique tool for education and enabling the school to enlarge its existing programme of gardening activities. These areas include nut and berry hedges, and accessed raised beds, which encourage pupils of all ages to participate in growing fruit, vegetables and herbs which can be shared with friends and families.
Coe Design has incorporated extensive native planting into the landscape to generate new wildlife habitats, improving biodiversity for interactive learning and the benefit of the wider environment. Native trees and hedgerows have been planted around the boundary of the site with margins of species-rich wildflower grasslands, whilst areas of wildflowers are located adjacent to the productive gardens to encourage pollinating fauna.
The overall design for the project incorporates a number of interactive spaces of various sizes, including smaller individual gardens located near the school to accommodate single class groups, and larger garden and orchard areas further away with the capacity to hold entire year groups. A range of ‘field’ areas situated near the productive gardens provide outdoor classroom spaces for complementary activities such as outdoor art, mini-beast studies and story-telling.
Since completion, the school has developed a strategy to maximise the use of the new outside spaces as part of the school’s improvement plan. Term topics have been tailored around the gardens and timetables now include lessons like Nursery’s ‘Outside World’ and Reception’s ‘The Garden Shed’ projects. The gardens are also used to aid the study of Tudor herb gardens within History lessons and environmental topics within Geography, whilst vegetable growing lessons with a visiting gardener are available for key stage 2 pupils.
The organic shape of the play areas, along with varied surface textures and colours create stimulating places for creative play. Changes in topography around the building are integrated into play areas as wildflower banks or play slopes.
Materials were selected for their low embodied energy, use of recycled materials, sustainable sourcing and their functional and aesthetic performance.
FSC certified timber is used for site furniture, curved path edges, timber fences, raised beds, retaining walls and balustrades.
Pale paving slabs surface sheltered classroom terraces and paths around the building. Dark concrete blocks are laid to terrace edges and to the car park where trees are surfaced with resin bound gravel. A gentle bank to the rear of the nursery and reception play area is integrated within the playground, covered in play safety surfacing.
The planting strategy set out to strengthen ecological links with neighbouring sites, provide habitats and year-round food resources for invertebrates, birds and small mammals. Planting combines native plants including a local hedgerow mix with ornamental species selected to provide a diverse, sensory experience that is easy to maintain. The design maximises the retention of existing trees and augments existing native tree cover with new Oak, Ash and Bird Cherry.
In addition to the sports pitch and amenity grass, two combinations of native wildflower and meadow grass mixes have been used throughout the site. Areas which retain the existing grass have been improved with wildflower plugs.
The productive gardens are comprised of the following elements:
Raised beds providing: Annual vegetable beds (to be planted by school), perennial soft fruit and herb beds and paved paths between beds.
Orchards with Apple, Pear, Cherry and Plum trees
Nut and berry hedges
Fencing planted with rambling soft fruits
Sheds, composting areas and space for potting.
Adjacent wildflower grass habitat to support pollinators
‘Field’ space outdoor classrooms including large curved timber benches
Bird and Bat boxes in adjacent existing trees
The use of porous materials, on site drainage and below ground cellular storage tanks was maximised to attenuate storm water run-off.
Formal sport activities are accommodated through the provision of two grass pitches and an all-weather Multi-use Games Area (MUGA)
Type of scheme/site and size
Educational – Schools – Food production
Lead landscape architect
Coe Design Landscape Architecture
An opportunity to provide an exemplar facility for a two form entry primary school bringing together existing Infant and Junior Schools (originally located off-site) in one location, with 420 pupil places, community facilities and a 30 place Nursery.
To create a flagship project, a radical new sustainable primary school at the heart of the Blakenhall regeneration area of Wolverhampton. To provide access to a wide range of learning opportunities and challenges that lead to positive outcomes for all pupils and empowers children, young people and the wider public to participate in life at the school and in the community.
The brief for the productive gardens were developed through consultation with the school. The following requirements were identified:
To accommodate a wide range of activities around the gardens to support all possible areas of the curriculum.
To be inclusive to all pupils within the school
Provide the opportunity to grow, cook and eat produce at school
To be easy to maintain
Increase biodiversity, attracting and improving adjacent habitats for birds, butterflies and pollinating insects.
Wolverhampton City Council and the Diocese of Lichfield
Total: £6.2 million
Wolverhampton City Council
Funding – capital and ongoing
Building Schools for the Future (BSF) and the ABCD New Deal for Communities Regeneration programme
2010 RIBA Sorrell Foundations Schools Award
BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating
RIBA Regional Award 2010
Civic Trust Award 2010 - Winner
BCSE awards ‘Sustainable School of the Year’, 2010
Quality in Construction Awards - Project of the Year under £10m, Environmental Project of the Year and Judges Overall Supreme Award.
The Wood Awards – Highly Commended 2009
Thomas Vale Construction