Kingsdale School
We asked for an aeroplane, the Architects gave us Concorde.� Steve Morrison, Head Teacher, Kingsdale School The Kingsdale School project challenges the conventions of school buildings, seeking to positively inspire academic standards and the self-esteem, morale and pride of the school community with radical architecture. The architects sought to build a provocative corollary between design and pedagogy: a three-dimensional catalyst. The brief was to revitalise a demoralised school. Demolition was an option at this stage, but the architects chose instead a radical and inspirational transformation of Leslie Martin�s original 1959 building. Various phased interventions feature a number of UK firsts, most notably the �variable skin� ETFE enclosure in the creation of a totally new kind of socially-oriented education space. Kingsdale School is today recognised by central UK government as a unique model of national relevance, and was funded directly by the department for education as the first �Exemplar� project built within the Building Schools for the Future programme. The biggest space ever created in a British school; The scheme exploits the potential of the existing building, superimposing a lightweight, translucent, light-controlling roof to create a new, column-free 3200m2 internal courtyard. This provides new entry, circulation, dining, library and assembly areas within a flexible, mixed-use space. Aerial walkways connect stairs and reduce corridors, providing sightlines and seating. Within this biggest space ever created in a British school, learning and access is encouraged beyond the curriculum. A span to weight ratio of approximately 30kg/m2 made it possible to superimpose the new structure straight on to the existing flat roof with no foundation requirements. The structural and building services engineers worked closely and imaginatively with the architects and specialist ETFE contractors to produce what was then the world�s largest and most technically advanced �variable skin�. The roof uses integrated (automated) passive through-ventilation with daylight levels extensively modelled to determine the extent of solar gain control. The shading pattern is based on �Op-art� principles, developing a dynamic 3D solar control principle, and offering extraordinary and varied qualities of light and shadow. A new heart for the school; The focal heart of the redefined school is a spectacular timber geodesic auditorium. This is a 3D engineered-timber prefabricated structure, a form made possible by computer controlled cutting machines. The structure consists of an asymmetrical geodesic softwood primary structure, with a sandwich panel acoustic secondary structure as finish. The auditorium is used for performances, presentations, meetings, films, local community church meetings, and it can seat more than 300 people. The interior is a spatial surprise, with integrated �useful art� in the form of a ventilation sculpture by the artist. Providing the backdrop to this remarkable new intervention is the extensively remodelled and refurbished teaching accommodation. Through and extensive and inclusive consultation process, the architects were able to develop a brief with all stakeholders, most importantly the pupils, to inform a new teaching environment for the 21st century. New buildings and further innovation; The next phase - the new-build Music & Sports Buildings - completed the extensive masterplan for the redevelopment of the school. The brief was to provide new sports and music facilities to a standard DfES budget: Music School (including classrooms, practice rooms, performance space, recording studio, offices) and Sports Hall (including multi-purpose activity deck, changing facilities, offices). The architects� ambition was to match the innovation and design quality of the courtyard works - namely the ETFE roof and the auditorium �pod� - with pioneering sustainable engineered-timber construction. The original school complex provided an abstract modernist composition within 19th century Victorian residential and 20th century social housing contexts. The original teaching block addresses Alleyn Park to the west, the privileged private context. The new Music & Sports Buildings are positioned on the Bowen Drive boundary to the east, and address the public sector housing community. The synergy of the two distinct volumes, and the sculptural form of the bi-curved roof and wall geometry together form a positive �gatehouse� entry that serves students, parents, and the community for the extended curriculum timetable, allowing the new buildings to be used independently of the rest of the school after hours. Music building = noise? A fundamental design challenge was to present an essentially introverted building to the school and local community. The introverted character is dictated by the site specific acoustic demands of the residential context. The architects imposed further criteria of �angular form� (principally in consideration of massing and acoustic reverberation), and the use of a totally sustainable prefabricated construction solution. The distinctive bespoke windows with soundproofing qualities and other unusual materials and were generated by these unique constraints. Sport building = box? Sports building are necessarily functional single volumes, large and high, as defined by sports pitch layouts and DfES and Sport England guidelines. Sports halls generally avoid windows in walls for reasons of glare and distraction of players. Blank internal walls are preferred as they offer rebound surfaces for ball games. High-level daylight entry is possible, if rare, in school sports buildings, which are usually blind (and often dumb) boxes. The design challenge here was to transform a generic low-budget box into daylit and expressive architecture. Materials and Method of Construction; The multiple attractions of cross-laminated timber include improved on-site erection periods, sustainability, omission of wet trades, factory quality finishes, and the good health connotations of using timber. The Music & Sports Buildings are the first examples of cross-laminated solid timber prefabricated buildings for schools realised in the UK. The superstructure was substantially erected within a 10-week period, with structure and internal finish as one process and requiring only an external sheet-based weatherproof cladding. The scheme can be seen as a demonstration project for the future delivery of fast, economic and ecologically sound education buildings.


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