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Catmose Campus up and running

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After many years of hard work by a great many people, Catmose Campus finally opened its doors to students and staff last week, with the final group of students moving in on Friday. EllisMiller were fortunate enough to be there to witness it, and it is safe to say that we were completely blown away; it is no exaggeration to describe it as one of the most amazing experiences we have ever had as architects. Seeing your finished building up and running is always emotional, but we were not prepared for the effect created by seeing a building as large and complex as Catmose Campus – and one which has taken so many years of hard work – being used and enjoyed by so many people.

The overwhelming feeling throughout the building was one of happiness and calm, quite a remarkable feat considering that this was the first day that all the school’s students and staff were in occupation at the same time. Of course, this is exactly what the building was designed to achieve, but on this day of all days it seemed reasonable to expect some degree of chaos. College Principal, Stuart Williams, and his fantastic team at Catmose College deserve great praise for the way that they handled the move of premises so efficiently.

It was also fantastic to see all the different spaces being used as they were designed to be. The central atrium proved to be a massive hit, with the students naturally gravitating to the space to socialise, just as was intended. The building’s varied spaces all felt coherent and organic, and it was heartening to see the ease with which students and staff made use of the new spaces without the need for instruction or direction.

We were also very fortunate to witness a year 7 English class, who were making the most of the school’s new state-of-the-art equipment to make short films about how they felt about the new building. Kids can be brutal in their criticism, but the responses were overwhelmingly positive. It was particularly pleasing to see that many of the students, rather than simply talk about the new facilities, focused on the feel and personality of the building as a whole. It was just as pleasing to be approached by members of staff, who recognised us from the consultation process all those years ago, enthusing about how pleased they were with how the building had turned out.

We were accompanied throughout the tour by Building Design journalist, Ollie Wainwright, and we hope that the building will be as well received in the press at it has been by its students and staff. But, in a sense, whatever is written about Catmose Campus won’t matter now that we’ve seen first-hand how it has been received by the people who will actually use the building day to day. To witness the change from when we first started working with the school to today has been remarkable. The new building is but a small part of the greater success that Stuart Williams and his team have achieved, but we believe that everyone who worked on Catmose Campus (and there are a lot!) can be rightly proud of their contribution to a school that we are sure will only go from strength to strength.

For the latest photos and reaction to Catmose Campus from students and staff, head over to the Catmose College Facebook Page.

17 March 2011