Intimate community needs addressed in transformative school
In 2005, the Grand Cayman Ministry of Education made a commitment to bring about a much needed transformation of their education system. Leveraging the advantages of a small population and thriving economy, the changes have been far-reaching. CS&P Architects was commissioned to develop a new model for a 500-student, primary school that would respond to the school’s need for highly personalised learning approaches, flexible learning spaces, and accessible technologies.
The new plan for the primary school creates ample opportunities for students to immerse themselves in Cayman culture, while recognizing the need for a variety of types of learning spaces and for serendipitous learning outside formal teaching areas. Spatially, the teaching components depart from the traditional classroom model in favour of a flexible, open planning framework with teaching components encompassing a range of interconnected teaching and collaborative work areas. In this arrangement, teacher/pupil relationships can be active and participatory, with the teaching staff taking mobile roles throughout the plan, and the pupil/peer relations establishing frequent reconfigurations depending upon the activities undertaken.
Each element of the school has a strong connection to the surrounding landscape, which is highly appropriate for the climate conditions in George Town. Both the large central courtyard and the smaller learning community courtyards provide dynamic social spaces and a cultural hub for the school where larger groups can gather.
The school clearly addresses the convenient use of its facilities by other community groups through the careful planning and integration of the health clinic, central eating areas, and library resource centre, which can be easily accessed by the community and secured from other school areas.
Architecturally, the building forms reinforce the Cayman identity, which stems from good practice in a tropical climate, and which has been considerably challenged by the rapid growth on the islands over the last 30 years.