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Donhead Preparatory School by Phillips Tracey Architects

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AJ Specification case study: separate elements of an existing school are drawn together with improved circulation

PROJECT DATA • SPECIFICATION

Phillips Tracey Architects has updated and extended Donhead Preparatory School in Wimbledon, south London, to incorporate new classrooms, an auditorium, art room and chapel. The scheme links separate elements of the existing school into a coherent building that juxtaposes old with new. The changes also improve accessibility, general circulation and facilities. For the first time in the school’s history, all ground and first-floor areas are made fully accessible to all. 

The alterations to the school respect the site’s original 19th‑century building. From a distance the school now reads as one entity. However, looking more closely, lightweight links separate old from new, enabling a clear reading of the school’s chronological development.

The original brief was for the conversion of existing roof volumes into teaching spaces but, following detailed discussions with the school, an alternative, radical and more extensive approach was embraced, linking the existing buildings with new accommodation. 

Brendan Tracey, director, Phillips Tracey Architects

161116 pta donheadschool 030

161116 pta donheadschool 030

Source: Jack Hobhouse

Project data

Gross internal floor area 1,126m2
Construction cost £2.36 million
Form of contract Standard Building Contract without quantities
Architect Phillips Tracey Architects
Acoustic engineer Sandy Brown Associates
CDM co-ordinator Goddard Consulting
Client Donhead Preparatory School
Contractor Blackwater Building Services
M&E engineer Environmental Design Associates
Quantity surveyor Castle Hayes Pursey
Structural engineer Morgan Tucker
Theatre consultant Multistage International

161116 pta donheadschool 003

161116 pta donheadschool 003

Source: Jack Hobhouse

Specification

A limited palette of materials has been used to reflect the simplicity of the overall design concept. It includes complementary red stock brickwork and light-reflecting render. The new auditorium is faced with an anthracite-coloured zinc shingle cladding to create a simple but striking backdrop. 

Internally, brickwork and infilled windows have been left exposed. White ash has been used extensively to visually link the new elements while providing a rich and robust finish to the auditorium, new staircase, altar and reception desk. Bespoke seating was also designed and commissioned for the reception and chapel.

Great care was taken to implement a passive ventilation strategy within the new auditorium, mitigating the requirement for active cooling systems. An automated Passivent louvre system has been installed, which is linked with CO2 sensors to maintain air quality within acceptable parameters. 

Existing roofs within the historic building have been insulated and roof lights and additional glazing introduced where possible to provide natural lighting and ventilation. 

The use of polished concrete floors throughout most of the new extension provides exposed thermal mass, assisting with the heating and cooling strategies.

Brendan Tracey, director, Phillips Tracey Architects

Eaves detail section

Eaves detail section

Eaves detail section

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