Saturday 20 April 2013

ArtBox Design

The new art room at Furzedown Primary School in Wandsworth is not excessively big or grand and budgets were tight, but still it was important to design a set of spaces that would create something special for teachers and children.   Here are some of the key design moves taken with the intention of providing the most enjoyable place possible for learning and teaching art.

The lighting design was critical to the success of the project:  
  • As much indirect natural (North) light as possible was required
  • Artificial 'task' lighting had to give an even and uniform distribution of light
  • A flexible lighting system was required to model the light around art subjects, and work displayed on walls required additional lighting
  • Control of the lighting system was important 
With the art room elevated over the existing school, it was an ideal opportunity to bring in as much North light as possible.  The roof lantern enables this and for much of the day the art room can operate without the assistance of any artificial lighting.  The rake of the ceiling under the roof lantern helps to distribute the light about the space.

The task lighting was developed with a lighting company.  All the fittings are recessed to keep the ceiling levels uncluttered and help keep the focus of the room at the level of the work bench.  A ring of spot lights around the art room work to illuminate work pinned up on the walls or subjects of artistic study.  hey can also be recessed in to the ceiling to assist the general task lighting. They operate on two circuits to allow additional flexibility of use.  All lights specified were low energy or LED to save running costs. 

Part of the lighting analysis prepared by FagerHult

Control over the lighting was required, not least to enable the projector and white board to be visible.  This was achieved with black out blinds to the north lights and solar shading blinds to the windows, and of course, controls to the artificial lighting.

Lighting control in the art room

It was very important to ensure that direct sunlight was eliminated from the design of the art room.  Patches of bright light disrupt the lighting environment, bring glare and are difficult to control.  Direct sunlight also introduces heat in to a space.  Therefore the art room was positioned to the west of its site, with corner windows looking in to the school's courtyard, (These only receive the evening sun, after school hours). The angles of the roof-scape and north lights were set out to block direct sun light.  

Working environment
In addition to the lighting strategy, other design considerations were made to help make the art room an enjoyable space to work in, within the tight budget.  

The additional volume of the north lights help make the art room feel like a very generous space.  The rake of the ceiling also assists with the acoustic performance of the room by working to disperse the busy chatter of the class.  

An under-floor heating system was installed to eliminate the need for radiators, and allow all the wall space to be used for displaying art work.  Services along the walls are contained within a three-compartment trunking, just above skirting level.  Here power socket numbers and IT routes can be set and adjusted without the need for further conduits or services on the walls.

Art room on completion

By designing to eliminate direct sun light, and creating the building enclosure with a highly insulated and airtight SIP system, the art room does not so susceptible to sudden variations in temperature.  It can maintain  steady, comfortable temperatures and a stable environment.  The high level north lights are also the quickest and most effective way to remove heat from the art room, (with 30 enthusiastic children being one of the the quickest way to generate heat).

Year 5 art lesson

The colour of the walls and ceilings was specified as Dulux's Timeless.  This was to match the off-white from the Spring Palate from the Colour Affects colour psychology system.  The Spring palate is designed to help lift enthusiasm and levels of concentration. 

Dulux Timeless

School design and beyond
I hope this is a helpful description in to our approach to design.  Our aim is to provide the most enjoyable and functional environments possible.  In response to recent proposals from the Government on the standardisation of school and class room design, this should help to illustrate how a project by project approach is much more valuable than pre-determined solutions for providing the best solutions for educating our children.  In situations like this, the old-fashioned starting points of assessing, site, function, spacial and environmental requirements and needs of the end-users are no substitute for set plans.  Evaluating the relationships between these key parameters will return different solutions for every school in the country, as all these conditions and needs are different - and rightly so.  Although we are great fans of technology and progress at DgnBx, it has to be used in design to fit our needs, not the other way round. 

Smiling faces!