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Ark Charter Academy, Portsmouth

By George Spreckley
Forterra Charter1

As part of a major programme to expand the capacity of secondary schools in Portsmouth, Ark Charter Academy has increased its student capacity from 600 to 900 places following the addition of a two-storey extension and some internal re-modelling of existing buildings.

The extension includes state-of-the-art facilities for students, an extension to the dining area, 10 new specialist classrooms including Art, ICT, Food Tech and Language, and a new drama suite.

The new building had to be carefully located on the very tight urban site to maximise the limited external spaces. It was important therefore, that as well as being as robust as possible, the needed to be sympathetic to the character of the existing buildings adjacent.

The use of cut projecting bricks was a key part of the elevation strategy for the new building. The scheme is a large rectangular form, which could have been overbearing, but by using cut headers, the main elevations were turned into (as described it to the students) "a million tiny sun-dials." They can, if they choose to look, tell what time of day it is, appreciate how the sun changes throughout the year and mark the seasons as they come round.

Forterra’s Butterley Carbon Black smooth was selected for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a good match for the bricks used on the adjacent building and secondly, it helps to provide a unified and smart southern elevation to the school's site. The brickwork detailing required a high quality regular brick so the cuts could be made easily and accurately on site.

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