ECA have been commissioned to design a new classroom building within a sensitive historic context for a local independent school. The site is located adjacent to the walled gardens of a Grade II* listed house, now the main school building, built in the 1600s.
The courtyard space is currently occupied by several temporary prefabricated classrooms which are reaching the end of their useful life. The school is taking this opportunity to engage with a forward-looking and contemporary design process. The aim is to provide flexible teaching spaces with integrated ‘college-style’ independent learning resource spaces, with a focus on providing modern ICT facilities for independent research and the encouragement of intellectual curiosity outside of the traditional classroom environment.
The new proposals create an inward looking courtyard building , with cloister-like circulation- ensuring no hidden unsupervised corridors or corners. Creating inside-outside space for learning and play will be particularly welcome in the summer months.
While sitting in a sensitive context with many wonderful historic buildings nearby, both the clients and ECA felt it was important that the evolution of the house and it’s grounds could be read, and that the new classroom block was ‘of-its-time’. We have developed a concept to create a folded roof-scape that floats above the historic garden wall. This creates a lively and articulating shape reminiscent and respectful of the rural, pitched roof typologies nearby.
This folding roof also allows for a ribbon of high level glazing to bring light in from above the tall brick walls nearby, ensuring the classrooms are bright and airy. This aims to create high quality and robust learning environments each with their own unique character created by the folded roof undulations.
High quality natural materials are proposed, including timber cladding and a translucent clerestory to ensure that the building is rooted within its context.
In addition to revitalising the classroom facilities the school is proposing to transform their sports facilities through the creation of a new gymnasium. Conceived as creating a coherent ribbon of development, the gym is a larger ‘folded roof’, creating an interesting and articulated elevation sitting next to the garden wall.