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St. Ursulas Academy | Bristol

New outdoor teaching and play spaces for a contemporary school

St Ursula’s School had outgrown its accommodation in a 19th century convent and located a new, purpose-built Academy within its grounds.

We had the dual task of creating new outdoor teaching and play spaces for a contemporary school, while preserving the context of the listed convent which was sold off for conversion to apartments.

A new vehicle entrance was delineated which gave direct access to the school but kept parking out of the eyeline of the convent. The landscape design was influenced by existing trees such as a large veteran oak which now forms the centrepiece of the entrance courtyard. This has allowed both the school and the convent to sit within a mature setting, to the benefit of both.

We turned the awkward gradient of the site to an advantage by building a large retaining wall alongside the preserved tennis court which supported level terraces around the school and a stepped bank giving grandstand views of the playing fields.

The historic, but sometimes fragile, walls were repaired to bring areas of woodland, orchard and meadow back into use for play, teaching opportunities and growing gardens.

Key features

  • Needs of the school and neighbouring listed building balanced successfully

  • Mature trees central to the design

  • Steep site gradient used to create functional viewing grandstand for playing fields

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