The school is located mid terrace in a six-storey townhouse, built around 1890-1900. The property has a handsome red brick façade and entrance portico. The school has occupied the house since its foundation in 1934 and become an important part of the local fabric of the area. The building was unique in Kensington and Chelsea in that it sits between three conservation areas but was neither in one nor listed. It also had the added unique facility of access to a large rear garden of which it had sole use for the enjoyment of staff and pupils. After an extensive feasibility study, it was decided to investigate developing the existing townhouse to provide facilities better suited for the delivery of high quality education in the twenty-first century, with improved facilities for staff and pupils alike.
The school had developed organically over the years and filled and adapted the collection of domestic rooms on split levels which made up the original townhouse, with ramshackle extensions to the rear and a science laboratory within a mansard. This along with out-dated services and access issues led to the brief calling for a clean re-design. The new design needed to maintain the spirit of the existing townhouse as an intimate, almost domestic setting in which to learn. It also had to provide enhanced areas for the teaching of science, better facilities for art and information technology and provide good access to students at the start and end of the school day, avoiding circulation ‘bottle necks’.
The proposal looks to retain the Victorian street façade but remove the existing townhouse completely, replacing it with a new building offering better circulation, fire safety, open and light teaching spaces, services and future-proofing for the school’s operation for many decades to come.
The upper-ground floor is given over to a large senior form room and a new large administrative office, overlooking the front entrance used by parents, and the rear entrance used by pupils, accessed via the secure garden. Generous circulation brings you to the large new top-lit staircase which joins all floors together. The upper floors are all aligned with no-stepped floor plates. The first floor contains the Headmaster’s office and science laboratories, benefiting from the generous ceiling heights, because the datum of the original piano nobile arrangement of space runs through from the original terrace datums. Above this, are three further floors, where form rooms are located.
The lower ground floor contains the most significant of the new spaces. A large new open-plan space provides an extensive new facility; this multifunctional room is used for art, gymnastics, after-school events and whole school gatherings, which are presently impossible to accommodate. A dedicated staff work and social room is also provided here. The new multi-functional room is open to the private garden beyond via a sunken amphitheatre, which further extends the flexibility of the space during good weather by forming an outdoor classroom and greatly improving circulation during break times.