St Mary’s Calne School Library Wiltshire, South West England Building, English Architecture Photos
St Mary’s Calne School Campus Library
2 November 2021
Design: Woods Bagot, Architects
Location: Wiltshire, South West England, UK
Photos by Will Pryce
St Mary’s Calne School Campus Wiltshire
The Woods Bagot London Studio has put the finishing touches on a beautiful new library at the heart of the St Mary’s Calne School campus in Wiltshire, UK. The library will act as a hub of inspiration and learning, with a striking design that incorporates the adjacent apple orchard and surrounding century-old buildings.
St Mary’s Calne is a leading independent boarding and day school for girls (aged 11-18), founded in 1873. The school appointed Woods Bagot in 2017 to design a two-storey library facility that would reposition the library as a hub for the school’s academic and social life. Following a collaborative design process that included the headmistress, staff, librarians, and students, the practice has delivered an environment which doesn’t just reflect best practice teaching & learning, but prepares students for the independence of their future academic lives to come.
Debby Ray, Principal and Project Lead from Woods Bagot, comments: “We are over the moon to see this project come to life and cannot wait to hear how the students react to and engage with the space once they are back at school.
“This has certainly been a one-of-a-kind experience and we’ve enjoyed working so closely with not just the St Mary’s Calne School leadership team, but the students as well, to create a space that wholly reflects a passion for teaching and learning. We hope that this will be a hub for knowledge for generations to come!”
Dr Felicia Kirk, Headmistress at St Mary’s Calne School, comments: “We have worked hard, with the huge generosity of our donors, to create a space that will motivate the girls and give them the scope to spend time thinking about what they want to learn about, and then to access and use information wisely. We want our new facilities to allow and encourage them to piece together their own world views and opinions at this most formative time of their lives.
“Learning should also be a life-long process, but it is so important that it starts at school. I suspect that many people never embark on the journey if that does not happen. Our girls are tremendously fortunate to be able to be doing so in such a fantastic new space.”
From the western side along the main road that runs through the school, the 660-square-meter structure appears as a simple, rectangular pavilion clad in brick and topped with an articulated roof of timber and glass. Upon entering, however, visitors are welcomed by dynamic interiors, with each storey having a distinct purpose and specified zones. While the ground floor is meant to be lively, aimed at group projects with direct access to the neighbouring orchard, the upper level is designed for more formal focused, individual studying.
Brick ‘bookends’ or separate ancillary forms along the northern and southern areas of the building’s perimeter, provide storage, stair access, small project rooms, and warehouse control systems. To optimise the spaces available for learning and reading, conventional book racks are dismissed instead there are study booths, display zones, and shelving within the interior walls.
The glazed façade faces northeast to limit direct sunlight while illuminating the newly formed passage from the library to the gardens and orchard. Taking direct inspiration from the fruit trees, several structural support beams connect to the undulating interior-side of the roof to give the impression of a tree’s branches. Clerestory glazing enables the appearance of a floating roof and double height curtain walls fill the spaces with daylight from the top. A metal detail is integrated throughout the façade to continue the vertical elements of the trees.
The scale and detail of the building is in line with the architecture of the entire school in its elevations but is deliberately contemporary in its composition. The outcome is a completion of the western edge of the grounds’ central greenspace and an academic haven for its students.
While books are a core focus for the design, the new building also acts as a buzzing hub of activity and a ‘home from home’ for younger learners. The vibrant space takes into consideration an ever-evolving teacher and student experience, with a modern approach that ensures it will benefit the next generation of tech-savvy students.
Drawing upon their knowledge of library design in the University sector, the Woods Bagot team has worked closely with the client to create several environments that support learning activities, ranging from group working on projects to independent student learning and e-learning. However, the design still makes sure that students using the library are able to enjoy a good book have a variety of locations to do so, whether is it discussing it with friends or curled up in the numerous ‘book nooks’ incorporated within the book-lined walls of the building.
The lower level of the library boasts an informal lounge-like area, surrounded by the school’s fiction collection with areas for display of new acquisitions. A multi-purpose stair at the centre of the library – part stair and part seating – leads up to the first floor and the school’s reference collection. The seating area forms part of a presentation space designed for staff training, student presentations and it is hoped that once schooling can return to normal, guest speakers and authors can attend evening events. Designed as a more formal space the upper floor reflects the older pupils need for focused, intensive autonomous learning, while providing discrete spaces for collaborative project-based work.
Technology has played a pivotal role throughout the project’s delivery. A VR walkthrough of the library was an invaluable marketing, training and education tool for everyone involved in the project. Initially intended as a resource for the students to see a 3D representation of the interior, it has also been used for the training of staff and the librarians before they move in and has proved successful as a marketing tool for prospective parents both in the UK and overseas.
St Mary’s Calne School Library, Wiltshire – Building Information
Location: Calne, Wiltshire, southern England, United Kingdom
Client: St Mary’s Calne School
Size: 660 square meters
Photography: Will Pryce
Woods Bagot is a People Architecture company who place human experience at the centre of their design process to deliver engaging, future-oriented projects that respond to the way people actually use space.
Woods Bagot do this as a global design and consulting studio with a team of over 850 experts working across 16 studios in Europe, Australia, Asia, the Middle East and North America.
Woods Bagot’s Global Studio model allows them to work collaboratively across time zones and borders, using the latest technology to share design intelligence and strengthen their knowledge base around the world.
St Mary’s Calne School
St Mary’s Calne School Library, Wiltshire images / information received 021121 from Woods Bagot
Location: Wiltshire, southern England, United Kingdom
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