On Friday 11th July we joined RIBA East Midlands at The Manor Academy in Mansfield to run an education workshop for upcoming year 7 students on a transition day from their surrounding primary schools.

Mansfield Academy_the site
The Mansfield Academy ‘Forgotten Space’ site

The workshop day at The Manor Academy was undertaken as part of the work of the RIBA East Midlands Education Group, in partnership with the school, Mansfield Learning Partnership and Business in the Community. RIBA East Midlands are currently developing an Education Pack to help schools to educate students about architecture with support from architects in the region. The session took the form of a ‘Forgotten Space’ competition, with the school finding a site on the school grounds that is currently unused for the students to develop.

Mansfield Academy_Spaces for work
Spaces to work – a reading shelter and ipad charging station

The site was a fenced off square of landscaping, with paths round all sides and surrounded by school buildings and the sports field. The brief for the pupils to work in groups of 5 to develop the site as a ‘work, rest or play’ space. On day 1 of the workshop local business mentors came in to help the students develop the brief into ideas for the possibilities for the site and come up with a brand to consolidate their concept. Ideas ranged from a relaxation space with a hot-tub at the centre, to an arcade open to students who earn tokens through good behaviour.

Mansfield Academy_Space to relax
Spaces to rest – a giant sofa and landscaped gardens

On day 2, we attended along with the RIBA and Robyn Kent, a recent part 1 architecture graduate student, to help develop these concepts into designs. Each group was given a site plan, cut out scale people, a base board and a number of modelling materials. After a quick fire design brainstorming session, the students had a couple of hours to model their scheme before presenting them to us and some of the school teachers to judge and pick a winner.

Mansfield Academy_Places to play
Places to play – an underground hangout and circus tent

The pupils were amazingly creative in their ideas. Places for rest developed into an ipod charging convertible car, an oversized sofa that provided a quite space within as well as a climbing wall above and an island retreat accessed only via a bridge over a moat. Play spaces became circus tents, cinemas and elaborate climbing frames weaving between the trees on the site. Spaces to work became reading shelters, libraries or outdoor classrooms.

Mansfield Academy_Model development
Development of the winning model – four treehouses linked with rope bridges

We were really impressed with the pupils creativity and work rate. Within a few hours every group had produced a model, drawings and a speech to describe their ideas, and we had a tough job picking a winner out of the 30 different ideas. Judging the schemes on creativity, buildability, team working, use of scale and modelling skills we whittled the schemes down to a shortlist of 3, and picked the winner – a new library for the space featuring a statue of the first Manor Academy head teacher. The idea was really well thought through and considered, and we hope one day might be able to be built on the site!

Mansfield Academy_The winning design
The winning design – a library reading room, complete with a statue of the original Manor Academy head teacher.