Ellis Miller have delivered a usable, popular and elegant building
Ellis Miller were commissioned to design an accessible and adaptable multi-purpose education and community complex in Oakham, Rutland. Catmose Campus demonstrates how a simple architectural language can successfully accommodate a diverse range of community uses and offer flexibility to respond to future uses and demands.
The architects worked with the client from the outset to develop the parameters of the brief, before conducting a thorough consultation process with a large set of users and other stakeholders. In response, they harnessed modernist design principles to produce an elegant and simple building that easily accommodates a wide range of community uses while remaining accessible, legible and easy to navigate. Alongside a 900-pupil academy, Catmose Campus contains a children's centre and nursery, a remote office for Rutland County Council, an adult learning centre, a learning disability resource centre, a theatre, an art gallery, a sports centre and health club, and a new civic space in front of the building.
Externally, Catmose Campus's modernist exterior has an elegant presence and acts as an appropriately-scaled landmark on the edge of the town. The team rejected a monolithic block in favour of placing four pavilions side by side within a simple grid layout: this created a softer visual impact, vistas between the urban and rural landscapes, and is the key to the building's legibility and accessibility. Internally, the grid contains courtyard and atrium spaces that break the building down, create transverse routes, and allow natural light into the heart of the plan. Adaptability and durability were also key design objectives. Catmose Campus has been designed to allow future alterations to be made easily in response to changes in user requirements or technology, without compromising the integrity of its design. Furthermore, robust materials have been used to withstand wear and tear and minimise future maintenance demands.
With such a complex brief, Catmose could easily have been an overwhelming, complicated building. However, it succeeds thanks to the application of simple architectural principles that delivered a usable, popular and elegant building where a diverse range of community facilities exist comfortably side by side. Built to last and adapt, the building will continue to serve a wide range of community needs now and well into the future.