This is the pilot school in ASE's inner-city schools program, which looks to plant small-scale, low-fee private schools in over 100 residential neighbourhoods in the Johannesburg CBD over the next ten years. ASE Acess City includes dialogue, self-study and partner-learning spaces. Naturally, very few urban lettable spaces are designed for school purposes and the brief calls for a flexible tool kit for the restructuring of anything from a ground floor shopfront to an office space to a factory space.
Local Studio had worked with ASE previously on their Tsakane campus in 2015. Like with the Tsakane campus, this project is designed to support the ASE's highly innovative education model, characterised by three forms of learning – instructional, partner-learning and self-study. The design looks to manifest each of these requirements as clear, freestanding folleys within a former ground floor factory space. The design also makes use of the latest in acoustic technologies, allowing for many open-plan learning spaces. The design of the first school was done in close collaboration with the team at Saint Gobain, working with teams from Ecophon, Gyproc and Weber.
Most challenges arose from the client's realisation that the current special arrangement, although open-plan, is still not flexible enough to respond to their needs entirely. The project was built in an incredibly short time period of six weeks which, naturally, meant teething issues, but overall it was realised very well. In hindsight, Local Studio believes that the most problematic aspect of the design is that furniture pieces are not easily movable.