- Herefordshire Council & Kier Construction
- Colwall, Herefordshire
The brief called for a building and outdoor spaces that sat well in the rural setting of the Malvern Hills AONB with particular emphasis on replicating and embodying the tones in the landscape. An Environmental Colour Assessment of a 10 mile radius was recorded in the winter season revealing mostly browns, olive, beige, rust and greys with dotted sharp notes of mustard and dark purple.
The Architect and the Landscape Designer strove to marry the school buildings and the planting to the rhythms of the muted winter landscape paying heed to the immediate contours, distant silhouettes and the provided colour palette.
The more formal front where the children arrive to enter the building, holds the planting in rectilinear beds amongst surfaces of hardstanding made of irregularly edged real clay pavers. A simple undulating line etched on a fence depicts the outline of the Malvern Hills beyond, a striking long-distance view that can be seen from the school.
At the rear, where the exit from the building opens out onto a softly planted bank at the top of the school grounds, a set of shallow steps cut through to create a sight line with the large pond at the far extremity. This gash pays homage to the well-known ‘Wyche cutting’, found locally.
The use of ornamental grasses on the bank echoes the hillsides in winter, as well as complementing the modernity of the building. The grasses’ neutral straw colour and their ability to display seed head structure over winter, all serve to provide a long season of interest. In a breeze, the feathery grass plumes sway to the pulse of the wind creating billowing wave-like cushions which are both calming and thrilling for the children at the same time.
The bolstering of the ‘green network’ for small mammals to travel along and for birds to forage and nest in, has been achieved through hedgerows on three boundaries.
A nearby nursery who sow and propagate on site using peat-free substrates supplied plants that suit the local conditions better. Another supplied apple trees of County provenance.
Eco-systems have been created – a swale captures stormwater along the length of a boundary and drains to a large attenuation pond; the connection of the vegetation to the wider setting with new oak trees and hedgerows filtering driving winds and in time endeavouring to regulate the micro climate; an activity area next to the playing field includes a composting facility and a vegetable plot providing the highest level of cyclical practice by the return of food. The buildings also embrace further sustainable features.
The walk from the highly acclaimed school building with its remarkable views, through the ‘Wyche cutting’, following a grassy path fringed with winking daisies beside the gentle brook to reach the small nature reserve with its pond and its dipping platform is a memorable experience for any child.
A sculptural mound in the pond mimics the shape of the Worcestershire Beacon, the highest point of the Malvern Hills range, and will feasibly attract passing wildfowl.
It is the sort of environment that will stay with the children into maturity to remind them of school adventures and childish romantic dreams.