Wakefield College: Bringing historic buildings back into community use through education

Wakefield College: Bringing historic buildings back into community use through education

Our work in the education sector continues to flourish, with our team currently working on a new educational facility for Wakefield College.

The Archive Building, formerly used by the West Yorkshire Archive Services, is located next to the main Margaret Street campus of Wakefield College in an area of educational and residential use. It sits within the Wentworth Terrace Conservation Area and is locally listed, its dominant civic presence making a significant contribution to the character of the area. The conversion will give it a new lease of life, ensuring that this important community asset remains a functional public space for generations to come.

The aim is to improve circulation, inclusive access and ease of movement around the site, whilst designing with sensitivity towards the surrounding conservation area. This will be achieved through both the renovation and reordering of the existing building and the construction of two rear extensions.

The building will house general teaching areas, services for students with learning difficulties and disabilities, and facilities for the catering department. The spaces of the existing building are being utilised as much as possible, such as the previous reading room which has been re-designed to house a new meeting space, taking advantage of the generous ceiling heights and grand arched windows.

A new main entrance and foyer space have been designed to improve access and enhance movement around the building. The original steep steps up to the main entrance were restrictive, so the entry was re-designed to be sunken below external ground floor level with gentle slopes to improve accessibility and ensure the entrance does not obscure the original facade. The brand new foyer incorporates lift provision to provide inclusive access to all levels of the building.

The rear extensions improve circulation and accommodate new building services. The high quality materials complement the existing building, but offer a varying colour palette to ensure they are clearly read as later additions. Their scale is taken from the existing floor levels and they are not visible from the street. This reduces their impact upon the existing frontage and maintains the prominence of the original features of the Archive Building.

External movement was previously restricted by a number of important trees at the site boundary, steeply graded landscaping and a boundary wall. New landscaping will work with the difference in levels across the site, improving circulation and creating new external spaces, such as a new courtyard for staff and students. The existing trees along the site’s southern boundary will be preserved, and planting introduced to soften the boundary between the site and neighbouring properties.

Our design has removed the large car parking area from the front of the building, which has been replaced with a drop-off point for students arriving by car. This creates a safer space and improves the appearance of the building from the street.

As well as being used by Wakefield College, the developed building will be opened to the public with new facilities for conferences and dining. Once complete, it will be fantastic for the building to be back in full community use.