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Preserving The Past Through Modern Designs

Here at Martin Walsh Architectural (MWA), we understand the symbolic importance that buildings can possess. The cultural and historic value held within the bricks and mortar withstands the tests of time and extends throughout the communities in which they sit.

Although it is critical to preserve the heritage of our historical buildings, without the ability to evolve to meet with the needs of modern society they are at risk of falling into disrepair and becoming unfit for use.

To prevent the decline of older structures that have often shaped the communities around them, an innovative and adaptive remodelling process must be taken to ensure they remain functional and practical for now and years to come.

This is evident in the changing requirements of educational institutes. As the UK is seeing a younger population continuing to grow, the need for schools that are practical and suitable for the evolving educational landscape has never been as high.

Building for space

This is why space is essential. Yet, the lack of space is also the biggest challenge historic schools are now facing.

In recent years, we have seen an ongoing trend of classrooms becoming larger and more flexible to help promote a multidisciplinary learning environment. This new approach has undoubtedly been accelerated by the Covid-19 crisis, with social distancing now being essential throughout all educational settings.

Implementing these structural changes are a luxury that historic schools do not always have. When inadequate outdoor space prevents expansion and funding limitations exist, altering the internal structure of these buildings is often the solution, but one that requires a creative and inventive approach.

This is exactly what the MWA team had to do when presented with a unique brief at Batley Grammar School. Founded in 1612, Batley Grammar required a larger library, resource centre and additional classrooms that would be able to work together to complement the buildings notable features.

Batley Grammar School

Re-modelled hall, creating a library out of thin air!

To maximise the size of the rooms and take advantage of the high ceilings that usually accompany traditional buildings, we quickly identified an opportunity to expand the unused old hall and school library. To ensure each square inch was utilised, the MWA team installed a steel mezzanine floor in the hall to create a much larger functional space.

The ground floor of the old hall was also split into a new corridor, stairwell, and a large classroom with an acoustic moveable partition wall. The introduction of a partitioned wall enabled multi-use and multipurpose classrooms.

Having a design layout that is flexible and agile enables the same space to be enhanced to form distinctive areas without the need to extend the building or budget. Find out more about about this project here.

Maintaining historical integrity

Although the remodelling process must breathe new life into older school buildings, it must also work hard to remain sensitive to their historical integrity, character and heritage for future generations to enjoy.

Not only can the foundations and structure act as an educational tool for the teachers, but pupils can form a more meaningful attachment to their local community and develop a stronger sense of pride about where they are from.

As well as the cultural value this will provide, combining modern functionalities with a schools’ cultural heritage will create a more inclusive and positive educational experience.

Calling upon our expertise to make buildings work harder, the MWA team set out a design vision that gave Batley Grammar School the opportunity to put a bigger spotlight on two stain glass windows that had been bestowed to the school in 1918.

Previously obstructed from view after an older extension, the stained-glass windows were repositioned within the newly formed hallway to allow pupils and teachers alike to enjoy their beauty.

Education setting do not need to be held back when it comes to finding more space, with imagination and architectural skill we can help create the space that is much-needed within the current climate and to meet the expectations of our youngsters.

“When inadequate outdoor space prevents expansion and funding limitations exist, altering the internal structure of buildings is often the solution, but one that requires a creative and inventive approach.

Marcus Walsh

Director, MWA