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Jestico + Whiles wins £77m project to finish half-built Cayman Islands school

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Jestico + Whiles has won an international contest to design and complete a secondary school on the Cayman Islands left half-built nearly a decade ago in the wake of the global recession

The practice was selected from an undisclosed shortlist to land the John Gray High School project in the capital, George Town, on Grand Cayman, after work on the original scheme by US firm Fielding Nair stopped in 2012.

It was initially thought the trio of part-finished structures from the old design might have to be flattened, but Jestico + Whiles said it would work to devise a way of utilising the existing part-completed buildings.

The AJ100 practice, which is leading a multinational team from the UK, Canada, the USA and the Cayman Islands, said these would be ‘combined with new buildings [to] transform them into a contemporary high school aligned to current and future education thinking’ and that ’having a single interconnected building was the fundamental requirement of the brief’.

The new 15,300m² school is also being designed to act as a hurricane shelter and emergency refuge.

Phased construction work is expected to complete in 2022.

Jestico+whiles by secchismith jg high school view01

Jestico+whiles by secchismith jg high school view01

Source: Secchi Smith

Architect’s view

Work on the original scheme halted in 2012 in the wake of the financial crisis and amid concerns around the educational model on which the original design was based.

The innovative scheme will create a centre for excellence for its 1,000 students and 120 staff. We carried out extensive consultation with the school community, government and education authorities to ensure the new design meets educational needs.

The project will complete three partially constructed buildings and then construct a new central wing-form building which connects them together around a central heart to form a single whole. One wing is dedicated to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), a second to arts, both performing and applied, and a third to humanities and languages.

While the brief called for a relatively traditional departmental organisation for the school, each wing features a central gathering stair and break-out space for informal learning and social activities. These spaces, combined with a number of seminar and small group spaces throughout the new building, will enable the school to deliver teaching and learning flexibly in the future.

Where the wings come together, at the heart of the new building, is a large central gathering space which contains the communal elements of the school: dining, library, student resource and social spaces.

Sustainable thinking has informed the design development from the outset. A solar control façade, which will maximise daylight while eliminating solar gain and glare; rainwater collection; and on-site solar generation have all formed an integral part of the design concept. The landscape design uses indigenous planting and largely eliminates the need for irrigation.

Project data

Client Cayman Islands Government
Architect Jestico + Whiles
On-island lead consultant Chalmers Gibbs
Civil and structural consultant APEC
Cost consultant JEC
Landscape architect Fabrik
Code consultant Jensen Hughes
FFE consultant Red Apple Designs
Acoustic consultant Pace Consult
Food service consultant Tricon
Lighting designer Studio Fractal
Contractor Sir Robert McAlpine
Funding Cayman Islands Government
Tender Two-stage – currently in second stage
Start on site 2020
Completion 2021-2022 (phased)
Contract duration TBC
Gross internal floor area (15,300m² – 9,383m² new build and 5,852m² existing shell)
Form of contract Two stage Design and Build
Annual CO2 emissions TBC
Total cost £77 million (KYD$82 million, as part of wider project)

Jestico caymans before and after secchi smith

Jestico caymans before and after secchi smith

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