Christ Church School Refurbishment and Extension
Primary school pupils welcome a church and design a legacy
RIBA Work Stage
When Christ Church decided to sell their church in the middle of Oldbury, Christ Church School welcomed the congregation into their building, transforming a corner of the school into a peaceful place of worship. As part of the project, the school was extended to create bespoke facilities designed with and for pupils.
The project started with the APEC team getting to know congregation members and school staff, and their needs for the project. Then lockdown happened. We continued the feasibility study whilst experimenting with new methods of online collaboration, and we couldn’t have asked for a more brilliant client group to test the waters with!
The purpose of the feasibility study was to strategically appraise existing spaces in the school, not only to find a new home for Christ Church, but to see how spaces could be improved for school pupils and staff. The study revealed challenges with a staff office and Focus Provision for children with special needs being located in spaces without sufficient access to natural daylight and ventilation. The outcome was a proposal to relocate staff to a space with ample daylight and an extension designed bespoke for Focus Provision pupils’ needs.
We wanted the pupils to be part of the initial design process, so we invited them to design their dream classroom from their lockdown classrooms at home. We were bowled over by the creativity in the pupil’s drawings and lego models. They gave us the idea to make the extension a gigantic chalkboard of blue brick. We then invited pupils to draw their ideas onto it and we received lots of inspiring ideas!
“A rainbow reading corner”
“A hidey-hole and comfy corner”
“Warm, welcoming, happy environment.”
By the time we were out of lockdown, planning had been approved, and we were preparing the Stage 4 Technical Design. We really wanted to meet the pupils, and involve them in the technical design by co-designing the elevations further with them. The school leadership team invited us to collaborate with Year 6 pupils, as part of their legacy topic, providing the opportunity for them to leave a legacy at their Primary School, before moving on to secondary school later in the year.
The APEC team designed workshops for two classes of Year 6 pupils. They were introduced to the story of the project so far and what it is like to be an architect. The pupils then all became designers, using inspiration from previous ideas to create their own brick pattern designs, and applying them to a model of the extension. A beautiful tapestry of designs was created by the talented pupils, with emerging themes of nature including the seaside, trees, birds, mountains, and space.
Themes of nature emerged from the pupils designs... water trees mountains stars birds
We combined elements from a range of designs to create the final elevation designs, including a detailed setting out drawing to share with the Contractors to make the design a reality. We were very lucky to work with Wodehouse, who executed the design perfectly. There were even added moments of joy throughout the build of the extension, where we video called Wodehouse from our studio, to enable us to talk through the setting out remotely. This is a testament to the technological advances in the way we collaborate since emerging out of lockdown.
We are so pleased with the facade designs, even more so because they represent the co-design process and the legacy Year 6 pupils have left at their school.
The project was a joy to be part of, from beginning to end, thanks to the collaborative approach of the whole team: the School, Church, Diocese, design team, and contractor. The Church now has a welcoming and flexible space to worship and hold activities, and Focus Provision pupils now have calming learning space with views and access to trees and external play space.