St Michael’s Catholic College

Working closely with the Headteacher and her team, we developed a simple set of proposals that redefined the school’s social identity through the addition of bespoke joinery furniture ranging from bookcases in the Library to group booth seating in the Cafe, surface decoration, new carpet, lighting and new dedicated furniture, including the re-upholstery of some existing chairs. This joinery, albeit large scale, was seen as being a permissible change and under the radar of the pre-existing PFI scheme and not in breach of its ongoing contractual arrangements.

The first phase, consisting of the cafe and library spaces, was completed on time and on budget within nine weeks of us being appointed. A second phase consisting of works to the school’s main meeting room were again programmed to be implemented within a week. The final phase of works to the lecture room is now waiting to be implemented.

This project was developed in collaboration with education consultants Bryanston Square. They had originally approached us on the basis of our ‘fast track’ experience when completing the national roll out of 70 Strada restaurants for the Tragus Group. They were interested in helping schools and education departments understand this way of thinking when it came to their own building projects. The remarkable aspect of the Strada commission was not only that we delivered these to a fixed budget at the rate of one restaurant per week but also that our client still recognised the importance of design within this process. That is to say, commercial delivery does not automatically correlate with diminished design quality.

The intention here was to create a similar book of innovative but resolved prefabricated details, established through cost effective prototyping in advance. These would become a language that could be rolled out to any number of PFI schemes to improve their actual day to day use. The specifics of any site, its geography, urban setting and surrounding demographic would then be allowed to affect the specific design solution within the framework of the prototyped details.

At St Michael’s Catholic College we worked directly with D&B fit out contractor from the outset to ensure this financial and programmatic compliance. Working closely with the Headteacher and her team, we developed a simple set of proposals that redefined the school’s social identity through the addition of bespoke joinery furniture ranging from bookcases in the Library to group booth seating in the Cafe, surface decoration, new carpet, lighting and new dedicated furniture, including the re-upholstery of some existing chairs. The first phase, consisting of the cafe and library spaces, was completed on time and on budget within nine weeks of us being appointed. A second phase consisting of works to the school’s main meeting room were again programmed to be implemented within a week.

The partnering of us as lead designer and architect with a D&B fit out contractor from the start of the design commission meant that the procurement was always ahead of the ‘on site’ programme. It took risk out of the project and ensure delivery on time and on budget. At the time of public sector cuts, this project illustrates how significant change and value can be delivered within well managed budgets whilst allowing innovation and design to thrive.