The school occupies a Grade II* listed building within a designed landscape at Lytchett Minster, near Poole in Dorset. Following a fire, a significant part of its accommodation consisted of temporary buildings. The County Council decided to build new facilities to replace those lost and to provide for the schools’ wider curriculum needs.

At the request of English Heritage, Illman Young were engaged to research the history of the site and to provide an evaluation of the designed landscape. This would enable the new development to respect its historic environment (listed buildings and landscape), and provide a set of constraints within which new development could be accommodated.

The study examined how the original designed landscape developed and functioned; its circulation, views and sequence of spaces, and the role that the house played within the landscape. It was not intended to be a full restoration plan but to provide sufficient information to allow English Heritage to evaluate the school’s development proposals in the context of its historic setting.

Following the initial historic landscape report, a landscape masterplan and full working drawings for the first phase were developed. The high student numbers called for a robust design combining the requirements of access with the provision of a range of spaces allowing opportunities to gather and socialise, as well as for teaching purposes.

A bold and simple concept using quality materials in a form that complements both the main house and the architecture of the new buildings were key design criteria. Informal recreation space is integral to the scheme with the necessary level changes used to provide a range of spaces of varying sizes and functions. Wide central steps lead from the new building to the manor house, providing informal seating and gathering. An outdoor theatre sits below a decked cafe terrace, and provides additional informal seating. Elsewhere a range of outdoor courtyards have been created for both teaching space or social use.

Providing safe cycle routes both on and off site, and reducing the physical and visual impact of cars was equally important. An area of poor quality woodland has been revitalised and replanted with historically appropriate trees and shrubs. It incorporates a new woodland car park, which used ‘no-dig’ technology to avoid a significant impact on the mature trees that were retained.

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