by Don Barker
The refurbishment of a dilapidated 50-year-old secondary school in a London suburb has set a number of significant benchmarks for school design in the United Kingdom. The project has lifted concepts of roof design to new heights with what may be the first "variable membrane" roof in the world.
The £12-million transformation of Kingsdale School has already proved an overwhelming success. This is a prime example of how a school can be adapted for the 21st century by reclaiming unused space and turning it into an adventure for the senses, for both children and adults.
The project was undertaken by School Works, an Architecture Foundation initiative, which, unlike other school building initiatives, emphasized the participation of staff, students, and community in the planning. Their three main objectives were upgraded computer training facilities, social inclusion for special-needs students, and local community access.
The architects for the project, de Rijke Marsh Morgan (dRMM), worked in partnership with the user groups to understand the direct and indirect effects of the school building on learning and culture.
Firm principal Alex de Rijke says: "It was the pupils who gave us some of the most useful insights into what needed to be different. We didn't ask the children to design it for us, but from what they gave us we were able to build an informed design."
Reconceiving an Old Building
The initial task was to upgrade the 1950s school and give the 1200 pupils a social center. The previous layout had a small assembly hall and an under-used central courtyard. The redesign provides a state-of-the-art computer training suite on the second floor of the main building. >>>
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