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Enterprise South Liverpool Academy by BDP

Class of 2014: Enterprise South Liverpool Academy, Liverpool by BDP

Enterprise South Liverpool Academy was one of the last academies procured through National Academies Framework 2 (NAF2). It is designed to be a beacon to symbolise the regeneration of Garston. One of the client’s key criteria was that it should have a wow factor in order to challenge negative preconceptions about education locally, and make the academy as appealing as possible to students and the community.

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Decision-making was challenging due to the different expectations and requirements of the various stakeholders. The design user group consisted of a representative from each of the five sponsors, the principal of the academy, and Partnerships for Schools (PfS, now the Education Funding Agency). Lead sponsor EnterpriseLiverpool wanted an iconic design; the principal’s agenda was how a diverse range of spaces could support his pedagogy; and the PfS was working in the Gove-era of efficiency savings and constantly challenged the budget. Fortunately, the 14-week process (which has been reduced to six weeks on the Priority School Building Programme) allowed relationships to be established between the design team and sponsors, provided sufficient time to understand the brief and each sponsor’s agenda, and led to a strong vision for the building.

The academy’s specialism in business is embedded across the whole curriculum, with flexible spaces to facilitate entrepreneurial needs. The building is organised around a central ‘heart space’ which creates a sense of place. The triangular forms, clad in diamond-patterned stainless steel and purple aluminium panels, create a distinctive presence to the building’s urban side, offering a clear indication of the academy’s community focus. The rural face is greeted by a softer treatment in which natural materials such as brick have greater emphasis.

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The building’s form and siting is constrained by numerous deep sewers. Conceived as a ribbon, the building stretches from the north of the site to the south, where it rises up into a highly visible prow before wrapping around to enclose the learning spaces. A large piazza at the front of the building provides a civic setting as well as a community engagement space for markets and other gatherings.

The outward-facing enterprise centre houses business studies learning space that can double up as a conference facility for local industries. Real-life working environments are provided throughout the building, including pods from which students can operate community-focused businesses.

Sue Emms, architect director, BDP

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