Fabric Architecture has installed a number of fabric structures on BSF projects (Building Schools for the Future) and were particularly pleased to be able to supply 18 structures for Middlehurst Special School (now Watermill School). Each of the fabric entrance canopies sit neatly in front of new self-contained classrooms that are planned like a ribbon wrapping around four internal courtyards. The new school is a hub of expertise for cognition and learning needs in Stoke on Trent, offering outreach, assessment and training for other special schools and mainstream schools in the area.
One of the most important elements of the new school design was for access to outdoor space from each classroom. All external doors to the classrooms are set back from their neighbours, accentuating the feel of individual teaching zones. The fabric structures form the ‘ribbon’ that links each class creating an educational hub and secure learning environment for the 140 pupils aged 2-19 years of age.
Seventeen of the fabric structures are 5m x 3m Cantilevered Barrel Vaults, based on one of our popular Signature Structures. The cantilevered design has the masts set back against the wall freeing up space for wheelchair access and safe play. The final canopy is a free standing 4m x 4m Braced Hypar. It is also based on a trusted Signature design and we were able to reduce the size of the foundations by introducing additional bracing, which in turn brought down the size of the steel components. This had an impact on the overall cost allowing us to pass on financial savings to the client.
The Mehler Valmex Cristal fabric was chosen for its 40% translucent properties to allow as much light as possible into the classrooms. It requires the same regular maintenance and cleaning regime as standard PVC fabrics, which is especially important to optimize light levels.