AHMM completes a new civic landmark for Barnsley
Kirk Balk Community College is a bold, dynamic architectural form; a unique civic building that symbolises the ambitious `Remaking Learning’ programme of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council to provide lifelong learning opportunities for the whole community. Designed as an adult learning centre and community amenity with many co-located services, the new school provides education for 1200 pupils, aged 11 to 16, and for 124 post-16 pupils.
The school occupies a hilltop site in Hoyland, a suburb of Barnsley with dramatic views of the peak district. The topography allows the building design to utilise the level changes across the site to maximise views and connections to the surrounding rural landscape. As a reaction to expensive form-making and exteriors, the compact triangular form was developed to maximise the budget available for the internal environments and special features to animate the user’s experience.
The use of high-quality materials, graphics and beautifully designed furniture enhance the dramatic nature of the school and create a contemporary, non-institutional feel that redefines the idea of an educational environment. The high quality design and finishes at Kirk Balk Community College, together with the sense of space, light and openness to the wider world have transformed the students’ learning environment. Inside, a large top-lit atrium, complete with bright baffles, provides a means of the whole school gathering, while the walkways which wrap around it provide opportunities for small break-out spaces.
Future proofing of the design allow spaces to be combined and varied in the future as pedagogy and learning develops, whilst in the present maintaining a transitional environment in which teachers and students can operate successfully. Built with a standard BSF (Building Schools for the Future) budget, Kirk Balk Community College represents a new idea of how architecture can help deliver a social agenda of joined-up services within one place for councils that need to get the most from decreasing budgets and resources.