Proposed New Gloucester College Campus, Forest of Dean

Held at Hunter Page Planning Offices at 12.00pm on 20th September 2013
  • Toby Coombes Architect, Coombes Everitt Architects (Chair)
  • Joyce Clifford Architect, Quattro Design Architects
  • Charles Cox Architect, Heath Avery
  • David Jones Town Planner, Evans Jones
  • Anthony Lewis Architect, Yiangou Artchitects
  • Ross Sharpe Architect, Yiangou Architects
  • Jonathan Nettleton Architect, Blake Architecture
  • Presentation
  • Comments
  • Overview

The Architect and client’s advisor outlined the planning background and set out the context of the development as part of the larger development brief for the area to provide a sustainable mixed use development. They also ran through an overview of the site and summarised the following brief:

  1.  The new facility should house the 3 key elements (vocational college, sixth form and a communal hub).
  2. The development site sits between the proposed new access road and an existing lake on a slightly sloping site with various arboricultural and ecological implications. These have been addressed in principal with the location of the buildings and car parking but further investigation and mitigation proposals will need to be made as part of the development of the scheme.
  3. The proposed building combines the 3 uses into a 2 storey building which is ‘V’ shaped plan with the principal entrance set at the inside point of the ‘V’ under a projecting section of building housing the library. This entrance ‘street’ then extends out from the building to meet the new external plaza, car parking and bus drop off. Internally the 2 wings house the various teaching and learning spaces with the hub located to provide views over the lake to the West. The principal of the layout appears logical in principal and we assume the operational working has been developed in line with the clients requirements.
  4. Externally the massing of the scheme is quite simplistic with the building having a continuous 2 storey parapet. The projecting library ‘pod’ adds some interest when viewed from long range but this will be difficult to read from closer range. The building is then elevated to echo the vertical rhythm of the adjacent wooded areas with what appears to be a bar code like series of vertical cladding and windows around the scheme.

The comments below should be read in the context of the information that was available to the panel at the presentation.

Presentation

  1. The presentation was delivered well with a range of drawn information and narrative.
  2. The presentation would benefit from some longer range views to show the building in the landscape which will be critical to the success of the scheme.
  3. The scheme has obviously been well considered and time was the main restricting factor in terms of discussion the design and detailed discussions on materiality and sustainability were cut short.

Concept

  1. The overall concept of combining the uses into a single building linked by a central hub appears logical.
  2. The proposal for a central street which leads visitors from the car park: drop off areas, through the external spaces and into the building appears to be a good idea to provide formal and casual internal and external meeting places.
  3. The building sits on a manufactured flat site and to make it appear in harmony with the landscape requires an accompanying landscape proposal which is currently absent from the proposal.
  4. The aesthetic precedent of vertical ‘barcoding’ could make and interesting building but this needs to be more robust in its development and materiality.

Response to Site

  1. The plan form of the building appears logical but does not appear to relate as well to the site at present. It is considered that the proposal could have a better relationship to the main road and perhaps have more internal activity to the ends of the ‘V’ to improve the first impression as you arrive at the building.
  2. The original intent appears to have been to set up an external street to link the outside parking and drop off areas with the new entrance. This works in principal but we would have liked to see more activity when this passes between the buildings as it could become quite uninviting? We also believe the street would benefit from continuing into and through the building by perhaps moving the reception counter out of the centre and allowing physical and visual links through to the café and lake beyond. We also have some concerns over the imposing nature of the library projection as it appears quite aggressive as you approach and wondered if this could be softened?
  3.  The plan form comes across as a fairly rational, slightly inorganic form and could be slightly monolithic. The 2 stories could be broken up by potentially raising some areas to 3 storeys to house the missing plant areas, rather than trying to hide them behind parapets on the roof. This would also then help to accentuate the proposed vertical aesthetic but work would need to done on how the building is viewed in the landscape to ascertain its impact.
  4.  It is considered that the impact of the proposed windows would also be improved if they were taken to full height, even if this was with a matching colour cladding material to emphasise the vertical aesthetics. This could be further enhanced by providing more contrast between vertical colours. We are not certain this is possible with the cement based board and believe a laminate panel system or more natural timber cladding could provide a higher quality finish and respond better to the landscape setting?

Overall we believe the architect has presented a scheme which will, in due course provide a high quality learning environment to meet the local need. The overall principle of the design is supported but it is considered that some of the refinements set out above would help improve the design. In particular we note that a landscape proposal is absent but when this eventually compliments the design, we believe that this could ensure that the building sits more comfortably into the surrounding environment. In addition it is considered that the street through the building and providing more overlooking and activity onto it would be an improvement along with the approach to the cladding being more rigorous when viewed against the suggested precedent. Whilst the overall principle is accepted, it is considered that some of the minor modifications would strengthen the overall design approach.

The Carriage Building, Bruton Way, Gloucester, GL1 1DG • 03333 405 500 (Jeff Roberts) • mail@robertslimbrick.co.uk

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