Precedent | Wales Institute for Sustainable Education (WISE) by David Lea and Pat Borer

Extract from my project-related cultural context report (images via the BD Online feature using this link here)

The Wales Institute for Sustainable Education is the educational arm of the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) established in 1973 by the late Gerrard Morgan-Grenville (Barac 2012, p. 92). Like all buildings within the CAT quarry, WISE was built as an experiment in sustainable building technologies and demonstrated how a sustainable build need not be an ugly build. Straw bale walls form the insulated perimeter of the lecture theatre, huge internal rammed-earth walls provide thermal mass for regulating temperature, and the external walls of the complex are formed from a hemp and lime mix (Anderson 2010, p. 34). The plan is organised around a central communal courtyard, or walled-garden; the eastern porous wall mediates between interior and exterior conditions (Baker 2012, p. 15) and provides shading from the summer sun. Teaching facilities are gathered predominantly at ground floor level with student accommodation wrapping around the building’s north and eastern edges backing onto the walls of the old quarry. The student accommodation enjoys the morning sun from the east while the single storey structures to the south and west let sun penetrate the depth of the plan so solar gains can be made during the productive parts of the day. Teaching rooms have transparent elements that look out onto social spaces in a way that implies a spirit of collaboration. The scheme reflects the school’s ethos:

‘“Everyone plays their part, no one part more important than the other, but all significant.” Convivially it is a pedagogical principle, “You learn more when you are having fun and sharing knowledge and experience with your peer group”’ (Barac 2012, p. 93).

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