Construction work has commenced at Withington Girls’ School, Manchester on a new junior school and hub space to a design by Levitt Bernstein. The design includes a classroom plan generated by the ‘golden ratio.’ The new junior school and hub marks the start of realising Withington’s masterplan for the next decade.
Founded in 1890 and located a few miles south of Manchester city centre, the school is one of the top 10 performing independent schools nationally, with 630 pupils aged from seven to 18.
Levitt Bernstein won an invited competition to provide a development masterplan for the school, which wanted to develop a long-term strategy for the overall enhancement of its accommodation. This new development will release underused space.
The new junior school has been designed to both increase provision and provide a department with its own identity. It will form the principal western elevation of the school, overlooking the playing fields. To the east it forms the fourth side of a new courtyard space, which is roofed over to form a central, multifunctional hub for the whole school. This ‘found’ space links all the surrounding facilities in the existing buildings, unifying the school’s accommodation and providing a legible orientation point.
The internal layout of the hub will create a variety of spaces for informal learning and socialising. A simple palette of materials is being used: brick, concrete, glass and internal timber feature elements. The classroom plan has been generated by the ‘golden ratio’ of 1:1.618, creating a space of classical proportions and adding a layer of academic interest to the design.
A constrained development programme means alternative modern methods of construction (MMC) have been adopted as a design principal from the beginning. The junior school is conceived as a precast concrete frame with regularly spaced cross walls providing geometrical repetition which suits an MMC approach.
“The new junior school and hub will help to ensure that Withington remains at the forefront of girls’ education in the way our founders intended,” says headmistress Sue Marks.
The project is due for completion in August 2015 and will open in September 2015.