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Scott Brownrigg completes ‘stick of rock’ academy in Surrey

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The £30 million Three Rivers Academy in Walton-on-Thames is described by the client as ’very much not a standard specification building’

The 1,875-student secondary school was procured outside the Education Skills Funding Agency contractor framework, having been commissioned by Surrey-based trust the Howard Partnership.

Replacing the former Rydens Enterprise School, the academy was funded by the sale of surplus land for residential development. Scott Brownrigg designed the masterplan for the new neighbourhood, centred around a civic square and a landscaped boulevard. Both the square and the boulevard provide opportunities for the safe drop off and collection of children, by both bus and car.

The masterplan sets the boulevard in a crescent shape with a central footpath between the trees and links through to the centre of the square, defined by apartment villas and townhouses on three sides and the frontage of academy on the fourth, eastern side. 

Hi res images for Press 25 IMG 8799 enf HUNDVEN CLEMENTS PHOTOGRAPHY SB

Hi res images for Press 25 IMG 8799 enf HUNDVEN CLEMENTS PHOTOGRAPHY SB

The academy was designed as a series of spaces under a single roof, with a sixth form and library at one end, sports and drama facilities at the other, and teaching rooms in between. Four monopitched forms cross this long central form, each housing a separate faculty, the ’four houses’ of the school. The practice describes the build-up of these houses as like ‘a stick of rock’: the outer shell of standing seam cladding forms a sheath which, if sliced through anywhere along the central protruding faculty spaces, reveals a distinctive colour within. These colours are carried through internally through graphics, furniture walls and flooring, to create a simple wayfinding strategy.

The sixth form, library and administration blocks have been shaped to address a new entrance piazza, and double-height curtain walling further defines the principal entry point. The south-facing side is more intimate, with the residential scale and proportion of the four houses enclosing a series of small courtyards.

The structure is an in-situ concrete frame featuring an integrated slab and beam design that minimises the columns required and provides clear spans across the mall space. This is overclad in a prefabricated SIPS system, providing the insulating layer and airtightness line. The top floors are designed to feel more lightweight. The monopitch house roofs and the library butterfly roof both have a ‘steel hat’ construction; internally the steel trusses are articulated in the fFaculty colours.

Plans Section

Plans Section

Client’s view

We are thrilled with our new state-of-the-art school. Our vision was to create a world-class learning environment for our students, and the project team has achieved this with a building that is designed for students’ present and future needs, and that is very much not a standard specification building. This has resulted in a professional, safe, accessible and inclusive environment for our staff, students and the wider community.

Anne-Louise Payne, head of school, Three Rivers Academy 

Project data

Start on site May 2016
April 2018
Gross internal floor area
Form of contract
Design & Build
Construction cost 
£30 million
Construction cost per m² 
Scott Brownrigg
Executive architect
Scott Brownrigg
The Howard Partnership Trust
Structural engineer 
M&E consultant 
Silcock Dawson
Landscape consultant
Acoustic consultant
Acoustics Consultants Ltd
Project manager 
CDM coordinator 
Approved building inspector 
Elmbridge County Council
Main contractor 
CAD software used

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