Flexible education space in the heart of a conservation area
Located in London’s Holland Park Conservation Area and directly next to the park itself, the 1,500-pupil secondary school is a true embodiment of the school’s ethos and the curriculum on offer. Providing a flexible teaching environment for the 21st Century by rationalising the pre-existing 1950’s development into a more compact footprint. The new school creates a totally accessible environment, allowing everyone to enjoy the learning environment and a high quality of education.
Challenging ‘traditional school design’
Unable to meet the demands of today’s curriculum, the old school buildings were no longer fit for purpose, expensive to maintain and had limited functionality. Addressing these issues formed the principle challenges which were set by The Royal Borough. They were supported by a strong leadership team at the school, who together, developed a vision which challenged the traditional notions on how teaching and learning takes place.
Above all, they wanted a building that neither looked nor felt like a school. It demanded a high aesthetic quality, functionality and flexibility which can adapt to changing curriculum needs.
The school involved pupils in the transformation via site visits, hands-on creative projects and regular presentations on progress. This level of engagement has continued with the building forming part of the science and design curriculum.
Classic, dynamic and distinctive
Given the school’s location within a Conservation Area and next to the Royal Borough’s largest park, it was essential to create a sympathetic relationship with nearby homes and elevate the connection to the park. The design is respectful to the local Victorian style streetscape, whilst addressing the site requirements.
The new building has a north-south orientation and its positioning helps to order the site, thus creating two distinct open spaces. The harder eastern edge is more public facing and houses the relocated main entrance; while the open, western side of the site locates the sports pitches, creating a buffer zone and helping to reduce the visual impact of the school.
Natural daylight is maximised by the creation of an atrium by dividing the building into two blocks, one housing specialist teaching space and the other traditional. The atrium is simultaneously a divisive and unifying space, clearly distinguishing the spaces and providing an instinctive understanding of the hierarchy and navigation of the building.
Functionality of the space is reflected in the treatment of the external facade. Built up in four main layers; the blocks are characterised by the facade treatment where one is restrained and formal the other is dynamic.
The dynamic western facade has fins curved in profile and clad in an alternating finish of bronze, copper and brass panels, which will gently settle in with time. We calculated the size and profile of the fins to provide maximum protection from solar gain and ensuring that the heat load on the facade was evenly distributed.
The building can be considered as three distinct elements; firstly the large basement extends over the entire footprint of the building and accommodates the sports hall and swimming pool, plus the kitchen and dining areas.
The above ground elements are then split into the two blocks; the regular teaching spaces are constructed using in-situ columns and flat slab construction. They also utilise a single-sided, natural ventilation system. To the west a dramatic steel A-frame superstructure defines the atrium and creates the large, specialist teaching and assembly rooms. Natural cross ventilation for the rooms, with the air discharged at the top of the building contributes to the 'stack effect' in the atrium.
Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, W8 7AF
Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
BREEAM Very Good
1,500 pupil spaces
Winner - Structural Steel Design Awards 2014
Shortlisted - New London Awards 2013
Commendation - RTF Sustainability Awards Institutional Built Category 2014
Longevity for the future of education
The school has been designed with long-term resilience in mind – lowering energy consumption, maintenance costs and improving comfort.
Shaded with external louvres to minimise solar gain and glare, the atrium promotes natural ventilation and encourages daylight to enter through the building. Energy efficient lighting and daylight dimming help make the most of the natural light flooding the common areas and classrooms.
The school has involved pupils in the transformation via site visits, hands-on creative projects and regular presentations on progress. This level of engagement allowed us to integrate the building and its sustainability credentials as part of the science and design curriculum.
Phasing plan to support the curriculum
Our programme was led by the need to maintain a functioning school throughout the build, to minimise the impact of the construction on the pupils, their experiences and outcomes.
We created a complex phasing plan, timed to
ensure the temporary accommodation block was available early to manage the move
out of the existing buildings before demolition and construction commenced. As
part of our plan, the main build was designed to coincide with the summer
break, allowing a phased moved back into the new building.
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