Beard completes new school library despite coronavirus restrictions


Swindon-based builder Beard has successfully completed the construction of a stunning new two-storey library at St Mary’s School in Calne.

With construction in full swing when Covid-19 struck, the Beard team adopted a range of innovative practices to ensure that work could continue safely and that the project did not suffer, despite a reduced workforce on-site. As a result, the building was completed in time to welcome students for the beginning of the new school term, as originally planned.

The library is designed to provide a bright, airy space that encourages a wide range of uses, in addition to storing an ample supply of books and study material.

Across the two floors, there are two large project rooms with ‘doodle walls’ and interactive screens, four small breakout rooms for collaborative works, and a multi-media room equipped for video-editing and photography.

The ground floor features soft seating, an interactive coffee table and flexible teaching zones. There is direct access to a broad outside terrace, and to the orchard, so that library activity can continue outside in fine weather.

The upper level provides a more formal library atmosphere, where students can focus on quieter, more reflective study.

The stairwell has also been designed to create a natural set of amphitheatre steps for presentations, and incorporates a sunken area – the Hub – with a large plasma screen.

The new library is located at the centre of the existing school campus, next to an orchard, with access from the main road through the village. To overcome the challenges this presented, the Beard team was able to arrange for a tower crane to be brought onto the site to facilitate delivery of materials.

Dr Felicia Kirk, headmistress at St Mary’s, commented:

“We have worked hard, with the huge generosity of the donors who made it possible, to create a space that will motivate the girls and encourage them to deepen their learning, going beyond the curriculum and pursuing the subjects that are most meaningful to them.

“With its flexible spaces, its technology, and of course the ease of access to books – and the nooks in which to curl up with them – the vision is for this to become the centre of the school community, something which we have often missed in the past.”

Marc Bayley, Beard’s Swindon director, added:

“Beard believes that buildings are spaces for people: places to learn, to live, work, play, perform and connect. This new library provides all that, and more.

“It is the people who use buildings who make them relevant, useful and ultimately special places. In this case, we are certain that the students and staff of the school, and the wider community it serves, will make excellent use of this beautiful new library, and all the facilities it has to offer.

“It is a pleasure to have been involved in a project that we hope will continue to bring inspiration and a love of learning to generations of students, present and future.

“I am particularly proud that the Beard team was able to overcome the challenges presented, both by Covid-19 and the nature of the project itself, and deliver the new library in time for the school reopening and the start of a new academic year.”