Tormead is a leading independent day school in Guildford, dedicated to delivering unique and innovative education to a range of school years. The school was founded in 1905 with the intention of bringing first-class education to local girls, who were often discouraged from taking part in the schooling system. Due to its history, breaking the mould and paving new ground is crucial to Tormead’s DNA.
To keep up with this tradition, the management acknowledged that the school’s sixth form spaces were in need of some renovation. So – Envoplan was commissioned to deliver a turnkey design and build of the sixth form at Tormead, with a specific brief and a variety of challenges.
Cultivating a relaxed environment for both students and teachers, which was conducive to high-calibre learning, was at the heart of the brief we received from Tormead. The school was also keen to help soften that transition between sixth form and University, so they asked us to develop a university-style lecture theatre to enhance the learning process.
There were a whole host of challenges that needed to be approached. Firstly, Tormead wanted their new areas to offer greater flexibility with multiple working zones. The existing space also had a very poor natural light transfer, on top of the spaces being hard to reach for the rest of the school.
When identifying these issues, it was vital to ask the students themselves for their opinions on the old space and where they believed it could be improved. With that in mind, a student focus group was involved in design workshops to ensure the final design catered for their needs. After listening to this feedback, it was clear that the old common room wasn’t great for students who disliked the big, busy, open and noisy atmosphere that sixth form spaces often generate. Creating an area that was suitable for those looking for some peace and quiet, without impacting the social aspect of the space, was one of the many challenges we faced.
It wasn’t just about students either. Teachers needed a new space to prepare for lessons and socialise within the new set-up.
It’s safe to say that there was plenty on our plate.
Students, teachers and the team at Envoplan were all delighted with the end results. First off, we designed the spaces to manage the natural light more effectively, providing all the rooms with a brighter feel. Differing acoustic treatments were also carefully thought through across various spaces, in order to provide variety across the sixth form provision.
The accessible design of our university-style lecture theatre was ideal as both a learning space and will help to facilitate crucial university-style teaching. Accessibility was improved, too, with a critical part of the design being the redevelopment of the tower staircase. This provided a portalised entry into the sixth form from the rest of the school.
One teacher was glowing about the innovative nature of the new spaces, especially when contrasted to traditional classrooms: ‘It’s very different to that classroom structure where it’s all dictated to them. Here they get to try things and experience things, which is exactly what they need to do in order to make informed choices when they leave.’
Let’s not forget about the aesthetics, either. We managed to employ contemporary and long-lasting tones to brightly complement the new natural light, as well as keeping the spaces fashionable in the years to come.
As with all our work, time was of the essence. We were delighted to deliver the project over a single summer break with a very compressed program, while maintaining the quality that has been us leaders in our field.
David Boyd, Headteacher at Tormead, remarked that ‘Envoplan really impressed us by the quality of their design and the imagination they displayed in looking at the space we had and how we might use it.’