Thomas's Day Schools Early Learning Block

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Thomas's Day Schools Early Learning Block
Thomas’s Preparatory School in Clapham, London belongs to a group of prestigious London Day Schools founded in 1971 by Joanna Thomas. Located by Clapham Common, this coeducational institution occupies a Grade II listed building dating from 1908 and originally housing the Clapham County Girls’ School. In order to meet the needs of the Thomas’s broad curriculum additional specialist classrooms where required for the year group 11 onwards, the first proposal was to infill the valley to the existing roof, but due to English Heritage and the Conservations officers concerns against the loss of 9 listed beams, a different solution was required. From this came the investigation to construct 4 stand-alone reception block classrooms in the main school. Moving the youngest children away from the main school building would allow the rearrangement of the school to fit the extra specialist classrooms. It would be beneficial for the kids who would have their very own internal and external spaces. In order not to lose any of the existing playgrounds and courts, it was decided that the site for the new block was the northeast corner of the school grounds. The new development was to accommodate: four classrooms, four one-to-one tutoring rooms, cookery room, and storage. All the spaces were designed to meet the specific needs of the Year One teachers and students. It was important to focus the new reception block on the existing school and the building to work in scale and mass with its surrounding. To the west of the site a one storey high art workshop, whereas to the north and to the east a brick wall defines the school perimeter and separates the grounds from back gardens of the neighbouring houses. Orienting the new development towards the old school meant that the classrooms would be south facing, which led to a number of sunlight issues. In order to achieve the two main architectural intentions the building manifested itself as 4 modulated single-storey blocks. This not only allows for the simplicity of programme within the scheme, it also allows for clear choreography of internal, and external spaces, enhancing the ability of the building to provide a nurturing environment. The trapezoid form was derived from a necessity to ensure that the external play spaces felt open and unenclosed. By slanting one wall the scheme takes on a sense of coherence and movement, the seemingly random location and size of the windows ensures a playful scale is achieved, and allows the pupils to view the surroundings from their own eye-level. To ensure the classrooms enjoy an abundance of daylight, the south-facing aspect has been clad using Kalwall, diffused daylight floods the internal space, and silhouettes activity at night whilst minimising solar gain. The decision to use KLH was informed largely by the rigorous construction programme, and the speed with which this stage of construction could progress. To overcome issues of weathering, and to waterproof the build, the entire scheme was wrapped in Prelasti. By donning its waterproof jacket the forms were then clad in Western Red Cedar. The palette of materials has deliberately been chosen to provide a


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