Steiner Academy, Bristol

AJ Retrofit Awards 2017 – Shortlisted

Steiner Academy Bristol was shortlisted in the Education category for the 2017 Architects’ Journal Retrofit Awards.


We have designed Steiner Academy Bristol, an all through school for 624 children, ranging from 4 to 16 years old. The remodelled grade 2* Victorian listed campus of buildings and grounds known as St. Matthias Campus in Bristol was finished in February 2017.


The design has retrofitted a school for 624 children into a Victorian grade 2* listed campus of buildings and grounds that were built in 1850. An extensive consultation process has captured and incorporated the aspirations of all stakeholders including a broad spectrum of the local community. The process has ensured that all aspects of the design, from classroom furnishings to the specific setting out of a hall for eurythmic exercises follows the Steiner learning philosophy, whereby two criteria prevail – it should be functional and it should be beautiful.


The design team worked closely with the relevant statutory authorities, including English Heritage and the Planning Officer. 


Design work started by arranging age groups into specific areas within the building. Large-scale spaces such as halls were positioned first before moving down in scale through classrooms, then offices, toilet blocks and stores. The design clearly demonstrates that a retrofit was a far better solution for the a 21st century EFA school than a solution that involved demolition and rebuild.


To make the building accessible to wheelchair users a new ramp was added to the main entrance and lifts placed where they were required. 90% of the complex existing campus of buildings is now accessible and the school has timetabled identical spaces on the ground floor to be used by those in wheelchairs in the few remaining rooms.


The project required large amounts of cross-disciplinary design co-ordination. Many of the classrooms required walls to be knocked through, in all cases nibs of the existing wall were retained to show the original footprint of the room and all existing features such as fireplaces, windows, architraves, coving and paneling were retained. New heating and lighting systems were coordinated around the existing features within each room before furniture, fittings and equipment layouts were then meticulously planned in order to ensure that worktops, sinks and blackboards fit comfortably into the available space. The remodelled main entrance is a further example of innovation, whereby a new elegant single-storey glass entrance subtly enhances the existing quarried stone façade.