Monday 27th January 2014
We are delighted to announce that Thomas Chow Architects (Hong Kong) and Schmidt Hammer Lassen (Denmark) have been appointed as lead architectural consultants for the redevelopment project at Island School. After a long process of engagement with the 6 shortlisted consultants that consisted of 4 hours of workshops and presentations with each consultant team and multiple school visits and interactions with staff, the assessment panel made its decision which was subsequently upheld by the ESF board. There were ESF board members, colleagues from the ESF facilities department, staff, parents and students from the school itself involved in the selection process.
On Wednesday 22nd January the whole team including Thomas Chow himself, Billy Tam (The lead architect for the whole project) and Bjarne Hammer from SHL presented to all the staff at school and we also began workshops to further brainstorm ideas for faculty accommodation in the new school. Read more about this session here
We are very confident that TCAL and SHL both understand the special ethos of Island School and the prime importance of the school’s house system. Similarly they understand what makes the current building so special and are committed to preserving and developing some of these aspects in the new design, and to making the most of the wonderful site and location..
Another very important consideration for us, was the willingness of the appointed architects to very much work alongside the school community and to involve them in the actual design process itself. TCAL / SHL have made it very clear that all school stakeholders will play a pivotal role in defining the school design as it emerges and that collectively we will produce a school of world renowned design.
Whilst the appointment process meant that each shortlisted Architectural firm submitted what looks like a fully formed concept design, it should be remembered that these designs are very much a preliminary way of testing ideas for how to organize the spaces needed and how to develop a first idea that meets the design brief. Whilst the ‘winning’ design may inform the actual design process going forward, there is a possibility that the resulting school may look completely different from the visuals produced in the last few months by Thomas Chow and SHL.
This is such an exciting time for Island School. Now that we have selected our partners for designing the school we all very much have a sense that the real process is about to begin!
See Island School Redevelopment in the architectural news worldwide
The timeline for redevelopment means that the demolition of the current accommodation and construction of the new, will more than likely commence in June 2017. This means that we will need to find and decant into, alternative accommodation for 3-4 years. Of course this affords us many opportunities as well as challenges. Many of you will be fully up-to-date with the issues having attended one of the meetings at Island School or at one of several hosted at our partner primary schools.
At these events I have been reassured by the positive reaction to the discussions around decant from parents and prospective parents alike. However we are also aware that it has caused some uncertainty and anxiety.
In our dealings with the Education Bureau, they have suggested several sites for decant which we have visited. We are under some pressure to decide on sites as early as possible, but this can work in our favour as, of course, the quicker we have a firm plan of where we are decanting to, the more lead in time we have for planning.
One of the biggest hurdles for us is finding unused campuses that are reasonably and conveniently located, large enough, that reach a baseline in decorative order, have safe and convenient drop off and pick up places for buses and that have sufficient specialist facilities. It is also critical that we find suitable sites that become available at the right time to fit in with our project timeline.
At present there are two sites that may meet our requirements and these are in the Tai Wai area. Whilst it is not certain that we will be using these sites, we are undertaking a detailed feasibility study to confirm their viability, strengths and possible challenges.
To that end we are meeting with bus companies to discuss the logistics and also running timetable simulations to see how best to organize the school should we take these sites.
It is so important for us to be clear that these sites are not a forgone conclusion. Whilst we are still exploring whether other options may be available, we must investigate each viable possibility in order to be in the best position to make the right decisions for our community.
One thing that we can be very sure about is the level of commitment, investment and time that is being put into the planning for the decant. Based on our current targets we are three and half years away from the move and there are currently several weekly meetings with various groups to try to work out all the associated challenges. We are being very pro-active in our thinking about this critical issue. One of the key principles we are adopting is that the education we provide will not be compromised as a result of the decant. Obviously temporary decant premises will not be equivalent to a modern purpose built school and the planning for the decant will take this into account.
It was very encouraging to see the way that ESF refurbished the Kowloon Junior School decant site (see photographs here). Teachers I spoke to that were involved said that the temporary decant accommodation was better than the old school they had left.
Please look out for another Decanting Information and Workshop event to be held in Island School after Chinese New Year. We will endeavour to release final information about the decant sites and how we intend to organize both campuses by the end of this academic year.