Maximising Outdoor Space When Interior Space is at a Premium

Tania Cantoni, Marketing & Fundraiser Manager for St Peter’s Catholic School in Surrey, England had a dilemma on her hand that many schools across the UK are now facing: how to maximise space for students when space is at a premium.
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Tensile Structures


Gloucester - Gloucestershire - England


March 21, 2012 - PRLog -- Two areas of concern at St Peter’s: a small dining hall and tight corridors with over 1200 students to move about. Realising they could not add bricks and mortar, Ms Cantoni looked to the great outdoors for inspiration. What she discovered was lots of underutilised space in between school buildings... perfect for canopies!

The outside space was hardly ever used because on sunny days students would get sunburnt and on the rainy days they would get drenched. There was no covered space to offer shelter for the students to socialise, have a break, play or eat.

Tania came across Fabric Architecture Ltd by doing a Google search under “Canopies.” After a quick phone call, she realised there was a school (Godalming College) not far from St Peter’s where Fabric Architecture had installed a series of similar structures (maximising their outdoor space).

Impressed by the quality and seeing first-hand that these structures are fully engineered and permanent, Tania felt reassured and was ready to move forward.


With a commitment to having canopies installed fast, Ms. Cantoni began a canopy fundraising campaign and received grants from both the PTA and Surrey County Councillor.  Both parties could see how the canopies would make a big difference for St Peter’s and the PTA even saw how canopies could generate revenue by hiring them out for community events and school productions.  They actually came up with a way to have the structures begin to pay for themselves.

Structures Selected:

With a tight budget, St Peter’s knew they could not afford a series of bespoke designed canopies, so they selected three different products from Fabric Architectures’ Signature Structure range of pre-designed and engineered tensile structures. They chose:

•   Double Conic (11m x 8m)
•   Pods 3 no. with integrated steel table tops (3m x 3m each)
•   Pagoda Twin (10.5 m x 7m)

All of the structures were designed with white PVC canopies and “St Peter’s blue” steelwork with ‘top caps’ (a personal detail by Tania).

When asked what their favourite structures were – everyone struggled to choose! The teachers love the Double Conic because “it covers a large span and offers plenty of dry space”, the students like the Pods with table tops because it gives them “a place to socialise and gather round”, and the PTA and Councillor appreciate the Pagoda because it has a “modern shape that is different, quirky and most important expandable”.

A Visit by the County Councillor:

Having contributed significant funds to the project, Graham Ellwood, Surrey County Councillor, wanted to pay a visit to the school to see the difference the canopies have made.  

He said, “I absolutely love the designs; they are very European and continental looking.  They are futuristic, yet practical and most important; the structures are stopping the students from running all around the corridors (big smile).  Now they have dry and shaded spaces outside to utilise and socialise.  Of all the structures, my favourite is the Pagoda – I just love the star design.”

Will there be more fabric in St Peter’s future?
“Absolutely” says Tania. “We will be looking in the near future to extend the Pagoda and add additional structures in the other areas. The more space we can cover outside, the more space we can free up inside school buildings.”
Tania said this about her experience in working with Fabric Architecture:  “Everyone I spoke to throughout the entire process was lovely (it was managed with precision).  I would be happy for anyone considering a plan to maximise school space to come view how we are doing things at St Peter’s Catholic School.  We now have three covered ‘zones’ for students to gather, socialise, eat and be outside – no matter what the weather.”  


Fabric Architecture Limited has been specialising in the design, engineering, manufacture and installation of internal and external Tensile Fabric Structures since 1982. With over 5,000 installations throughout the world, we are experienced in both Design & Build as well as offering the largest range of 40 pre-designed and pre-engineered Signature Structures in over 100 sizes.

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Tags:Education, Canopies, Shelter, Tensile Structures
Industry:Construction, Manufacturing, Architecture
Location:Gloucester - Gloucestershire - England
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