Enterprise South Liverpool Academy (ESLA) provides 1100 secondary school students, aged 11-18, with over 10,000 sqm of state‐of‐the‐art facilities to meet the challenges of 21st century learning. A national centre in business and enterprise, the academy’s specialism is embedded across the whole curriculum with a diverse yet flexible range of spaces to facilitate entrepreneurial needs. The academy is organised around a central heartspace which creates a sense of place where all users feel welcome in line with the academy’s Christian ethos.
The new building is a beacon that symbolises the regeneration of Garston, South Liverpool. A key criterion was that it should have a wow factor in order to challenge the negative preconceptions about education locally, and make the academy as appealing as possible to students and the local community. The triangular forms of the building clad in diamond patterned stainless steel and purple aluminium panels create a distinctive and dramatic presence to the building’s urban side, offering a clear indication of the academy’s community focus, whilst the rural face is greeted by a softer treatment in which more natural materials such as timber have greater emphasis.
The building’s form and siting is constrained by numerous deep sewers which run across the site. Conceived as a ribbon or unified skin, the building stretches from the entrance at the north of the site to the south where it rises up into a highly visible prow before wrapping around to enclose the learning spaces. The ribbon is a fundamental concept, uniting different areas of the site and tying together the four main building components; the main academy building, the sports barn, the enterprise centre and an external covered agora. A large piazza is created at the front of the building providing a civic setting to the new building as well as a community engagement space for markets and other gatherings.
The building’s organisation responds to the educational requirement for diverse learning and social spaces arranged to enable cross-curricula education. The four storey building accommodates generic learning on the two upper floors and specialist learning on the two lower floors, all arranged around the central atrium which is a dynamic space that can be used flexibly in an exciting array of configurations.
The outward-facing enterprise centre, with its clear identity and individual expression, houses business studies learning space that can double-up as a conferencing facility for local industries and enable students to experience business in action. Real life working environments are provided throughout the building including pods which provide infrastructure for students to operate community focused businesses such as a café, hairdressing or a flower shop. The entrepreneurial ethos has been carried through into the landscape design with an apothecary’s garden, edible garden plots, community allotments and a forest classroom.