Haileybury Almaty School
- HOK London
The project is the result of collaboration between a long-established English school and a group of Kazakh business leaders. The school has been created to support a vision that would allow young Kazakhs to remain in their home country and receive an education that will equip them to gain entrance to any university in the world.
HOK was commissioned to design a school that could open in 20 months from the date of our appointment. The school needed to be flexible enough to deal with a program that would develop as the building was constructed. Above all it would need to provide an inspirational learning environment that met the true vision of the project, a new approach to teaching and learning in the largest city in Kazakhstan. The strategies adopted to answer these challenges rely on the separation of formal and informal learning spaces. Traditional ‘classrooms’ are provided in a series of simple in-situ concrete framed structures, free from internal columns, that are rigid enough to cope with the seismic conditions but flexible and simple to adapt as needs evolve. Between the more formal structures are three informal areas beneath free form, lightweight roofs covered in highly insulating ETFE cushions. These spaces provide a public agora at the entrance to the school, an informal space for the younger pupils and at the centre of the school, a learning resource tailored for independent and project based learning. This central space is the heart of the school, surrounded by all the major teaching spaces it sets out to celebrate learning in all its manifestations.
The building required to be designed and constructed to an extremely tight timescale in order to meet the planned opening date of September 2008. Despite all the challenges, HOK commenced design work in January of 2007; the school welcomed its first pupils 20 months later on the 1st of September 2008.