Nightingale and Kier Moss have completed a Post-16 school in Newbury for young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN). Castle School will meet the requirements of up to 30 students with various learning difficulties, including autistic spectrum disorders. Located within the grounds of Newbury College, the new build is orientated to make the best use of the rural landscape, natural daylight and protect the site from noise. It has been configured in a horseshoe shape allowing the wings of the building to be visually and physically connected.
In the centre is a sensory garden with four raised flower beds that symbolise touch, taste, smell and colour and a water feature chosen by the school, which provides a focal point. A mixed palette of building materials compliments the natural setting and adjacent buildings, with hard materials used on the ‘acoustic edge’ to the car park and softer materials like glass and timber used to connect with the garden and landscape beyond. It is designed to achieve a BREEAM rating of ‘Excellent’ through the specification of materials with low embodied energy and the use of natural ventilation.
A light and airy common room in the middle of the building provides direct access to the garden. Admin and staff areas orientate around the main entrance, enhancing security and enabling passive supervision. The kitchen, plant and other services are located along the northern elevation adjacent to the car park, and classrooms are arranged in the two wings running south. Building flexibility is ensured by minimal fixed furniture, a range of room sizes and acoustic movable walls.
The colour scheme matches that used in the existing Castle School to create a sense of identity. To aid orientation, pictorial signage illustrates the activity within each room. Students are given a matching graphic symbol, which can then be placed on a Velcro pad below each sign. Interior finishes have been selected to make navigation easier for partially sighted students. Lindsay Webb, Project Architect, said: “We’ve worked hard to design a building that will accommodate for the pupils’ varying moods and emotions, as well as creating a flexible, practical and welcoming learning environment. It’s been a challenging but hugely rewarding project, which we hope will have a positive impact upon students with special educational needs.”