The Marchant-Holliday School

Contact Us
10th January

Project Details

Unused space
3 weeks

How did it all start?

Initially we were contacted by a representative of the school, Debbie, around the end of 2020. Debbie contacted us through our website after seeing our Education page and the kinds of projects we build. She sent in a standard query form with the basic details: Location, age groups, ideas, budget etc…  

Our special education school is looking to create a brand new play area and would love for Home Front to work with us on it.

At this stage nothing was set in stone, Debbie just wanted to get her school and ideas down on paper and sent into the right hands. Naturally, we followed up this enquiry with a phone call to introduce ourselves and begin firming out some details. After a lengthy phone call and understanding just how passionate Debbie was for her school and what made this Primary so unique, a site visit was organised for March 2021. 

How did the site visit go?

Very smoothly, Debbie and the Head Teacher were both incredibly helpful and passionate about their school. They showed us the plot of land they had decided on, an open space that sat behind the school and nestled between two great vantage points (King Alfred’s Tower & ). We continued our tour of the space and the Head Teacher expressed concern over the plot because of the enclosing forest. We reassured him that this would be no problem.

It's rare for us to not terraform the ground, in some capacity, as usually, as is the case with this project, there will be tree roots and rocks buried beneath the surface but that’s nothing our team can’t handle.

What kind of play area did they want?

They told us they didn't want the playground to be another classroom, which honestly was refreshing; a lot of schools try to force the two together when that’s not right for the kids. Because the school was a special education school, there needed to be a focus on the pupils and creating an environment that they saw as their own space. A place where they could burn off energy and feel physically stimulated.

Debbie expressed her goal for the play area: 

A focus on a challenging climb but with safety in mind. Something that will stimulate the kid's imaginations but doesn't cross the line with risk.

The balance between both was something we hear all too often but nothing we can’t handle. We have worked with all ages and abilities so finding the right balance is a case of understanding the school down to their ethos.

In terms of how it was going to look, they had some ideas in mind but knew we were the experts. We explained we always try to incorporate the history of the area into our designs, so when we saw King Alfred’s Tower, we knew we’d definitely want to use it as a design element. The idea for the ship came as a result of wanting something that was visually impressive and would create that needed division between classroom and playground.

What was the next step?

After our site visit, we then explore these ideas further and create the Brief and the Design Proposal, effectively two documents to confirm that we have listened and understood the requests of our clients. The Brief summarises all of the details that we have given so that both sides have a point of reference for future development going forward. The Design Brief is a conceptual document that proposes ideas without going too far into 3-D visual design. The Design Brief is always fun because it's the first chance for the school to see their ideas come to life. It’s one thing seeing it in your head but designing concepts for the space takes it to the next level. However if there is something that doesn't look quite right, now is the opportunity, before progressing our design, to iron out any details that may have got overlooked or strayed too far from the original idea. 

Was there much back and forth?

Of course, it's very rare that anyone is willing to just accept the first thing we show them and we even encourage our clients to be brutally honest with us - no harm in saying you don't like the look of something. This is a collaborative effort, after all, so all comments that were discussed were taken onboard. We work quickly as well, so when there was a change to be made it isn't surprising if we send it back the same day it was raised or the day after. Once we have enough to go off of, we start on the 3-D visuals.

The 3-D visuals is when the whole idea comes to life, we explain our process and thinking during this presentation, but more often than not the designs speak for themselves. But, for clarity's sake we review our journey so far: From Brief, to Design Proposal, and into 3-D visuals - leaving no stone unturned.

This final meeting helps put all those worrying niggles to bed. Concerns like Debbie’s fear of safety or the Head Teacher’s worry of landscaping; and in combination with our detailed explanation of each and every piece of play equipment and how its purpose relates to their school’s community. Needless to say we were all on the same page by its conclusion. Overall, this was quite a straightforward process with a relatively quick turnaround, we had finalised our design with Debbie and the school by the end of March and agreed for an installation in July during the holidays. We usually like to have big projects like this booked in sooner but due to the pandemic we were left with little option but to do it in July.

What was the install like?

Sunny! It was hot but not like the heat we had last year, and because it was the holidays, we had the school to ourselves which made our lives easier, it meant we could just crack on. Usually, we’re in the position of being mindful of the staff and students - building a playground during term time can be quite the distraction - but we always make sure we represent the company to the best of our ability. This project we could just get stuck in. And, that we did from beginning to end, the project lasted three weeks in total and both sides couldn't be happier.

Did you encounter any challenges?

Nothing that we hadn't accounted for, we knew the ground was gonna be a bit tricky to start with given the roots and rocks but that was easy enough to overcome. And, of course there was the heat, three weeks in the open sun isn't anything to be laughed at, fortunately on this job we had the trees from the forest to keep us shaded and plenty of sun cream and water to keep us protected.

What makes this a standout project?

For us the thing that sticks in our minds is obviously the way it looks, not only does it have that visual wow factor, but the setting and the design components, all working together in tandem, really compliment the overall build! We went back to get some photos with the drone and the final results were really a testament to the hard work both sides put in to make this possible.

The key standout for me is just how pleased the Marchant-Holliday School was, and still is, when this project was completed. They told us how happy they were for choosing Home Front and that they knew that our kit would compliment their school. I think that’s what sticks out, just how much trust they put in us from the first inquiry. - Luke Jay, Managing Director

In summary, this project was a lovely one and we struggle to think of a better showcase of all the ideals Home Front represents. But, more than just blowing our own horn, what stays with us all these years later was just how much trust the Marchant-Holliday School had for us right from the get-go. They chose us, in comparison to others, based on the quality of our equipment and how it timelessly blends into environments. And, that really comes across in the imagery - it's no mistake you see it across all our platforms - we’re proud of this project and the impact it has on people.


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