Class of 2014: Kingswood School humanities building, Bath by Mitchell Taylor Workshop
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Our experience of working with independent schools has given us expertise in a variety of building types, from libraries, boarding houses and theatres to classrooms, sports halls and energy centres. Independent schools often have a strong identity and seek to reflect this within their built environment. Budgets and time constraints are well defined, but do not restrict the aspiration to produce interesting and relevant architectural buildings and places.
Mitchell Taylor Workshop won a limited competition to design a humanities building for Kingswood School in Bath’s Conservation Area and World Heritage Site in May 2012. We developed our proposal, working closely with staff and pupils, to allow the school to occupy their new building at the start of the 2013/14 academic year, carrying out design and construction in a little over 12 months. The budget resulted in a construction cost of £1,640 per square metre, which meant that the classroom block needed to be well considered, co-ordinated and efficient in order to make a positive contribution to the school’s academic and built environment.
Designed to allow for increased pupil numbers in the future, the scheme contains eight classrooms and three departmental resource areas, divided into two blocks by a triangular-shaped flexible circulation area that can be used for exhibiting work and academic conferences.
The classroom block stands next to the Ferens building, opened in 1924, and the design evolved to be a contemporary interpretation of both the original school and the heritage buildings of Bath, which have clearly defined fronts and backs. The form and proportion of the roof structure and openings are a response to the rhythm of the Ferens building’s facade, with tall windows and perforated panels.
Aligned along Fonthill Road to the north east, the form and orientation of the building have been generated from site constraints to maximise natural daylight and ventilation into the classroom spaces while controlling solar gain.
To create a playful front-and-back tectonic narrative, a variety of materials was considered. Although the planners had requested stone be used, we identified another heavily used material in Bath, slate, and argued that a long, dark brick that had the quality of a slate block would be appropriate, which was accepted. The final design incorporated stone on the south facade with the dark brick on the other facades, creating a unique architectural composition.
Simon Gould, associate director, Mitchell Taylor Workshop