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Jerwood School of Design, Oakham School, Leicestershire, by Project Orange

Project Orange demonstrates a healthy pragmatism at this design school, writes Rory Olcayto. Photography by Gareth Gardner

The initial plan that Project Orange director James Soane sketched out for Jerwood School of Design at Oakham School in Rutland shows a deformed rectangular layout, as if two colliding shapes, not quite parallel, had somehow fused together. The slight kinks in plan seemed to reflect the immediate context: a group of crudely built, loosely planned, 18th and 19th-century brick buildings. When the quantity surveyor reported that the structural cost would drop by 15 per cent if the plan was straightened out, Soane, without a hint of preciousness, took the advice. His pragmatic reading of the surveyor’s advice underpins much of what is good about this modest, well-crafted building.

The finished scheme still has the feel of two monopitched buildings fused together, reflecting the organic growth of the immediate context, and an offset staff-room window by the entrance recalls the original kinked plan. The building’s gabled form also picks up on the contextual language, and a literal connection is made through a link connecting the new building to a stone barn at its rear, which houses the school’s art department.

Cedar shingles and plywood interiors add a warm glow to the aesthetic

Project Orange was commissioned to expand Oakham School’s art, design and technology facilities in 2007. A large part of its budget was funded by the Jerwood Foundation, which supports the arts and education and has strong links with the school.

The architect has created flexible workshop space on the ground floor with design studios on the first floor. The workshops are sandwiched between two concrete decks, while the studios above are defined by a lightweight timber structure. As well as the environmental benefits (the concrete helps maintain thermal comfort and the timber structure above means less foundation), it feels right to encase the volume of the workshops – where things are made permanent  – in concrete, while giving the studios – where ideas evolve – a lighter fit.

A double-height glazed entrance and atrium physically connect the two zones. The atrium circulates warm air up and out through vents positioned at the roof’s apex. Throughout, cool air is drawn inside through vents placed at lower levels, negating the need for mechanical ventilation and air conditioning.

Cedar shingles and plywood interiors add a warm glow to the aesthetic and, given that the shingles cover the roof as well, provide Oakham’s new building with a distinct identity. You don’t need a kinked plan for that.


Tender date August 2007
Start on site September 2007
Contract duration 49 weeks
Gross internal floor area 641m2
Form of contract SBC 05 with quantities
Total cost £1.4 million
Cost per m² £2,176
Client Oakham School, Rutland, Leicestershire
Architect Project Orange
Structural engineer Smithers Purslow
M&E consultant EP Consulting
Quantity surveyor CM Parker Browne
Main contractor RG Carter Peterborough
Glulam subcontractor Lamisell
Shingles subcontractor Broadbents UK
Annual CO² emissions 31.7kg/m²

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