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School principles

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Two lightweight additions by Robert L Adams Architects to the Froebel Institute are designed to mellow and mature with age

Friedrich Froebel was an enlightened Victorian educationalist whose ideas, particularly about the importance of play in the education of young children, were revolutionary for their time but are now accepted mainstream educational theory. The Froebel Educational Institute was established in 1892 to train primary-school teachers in his principles. The extensive grounds of its headquarters - at Grove House, a Victorian house in Roehampton, West London - allowed the college to expand over the years. It now forms one of the four colleges of the Roehampton Institute.

In 1963 Norman and Dawbarn designed new buildings in the grounds of Grove House. One of these, a single-storey hostel and classroom block, has now been extended by Robert L Adams Architects by the addition of an extra storey and a large two-storey extension. The new complex houses the Centre for Development in Primary Education and includes specialist areas for training art and technology teachers, where student teachers can observe and monitor lessons in an environment which simulates that of a primary- school classroom

The 1963 building has external brick walls, a concrete slab roof - leaky and poorly insulated - and steel W20 windows. The new storey, which had to be lightweight to avoid overloading the foundations of the original building, consists of a row of steel columns at first-floor level resting on the perimeter of the original building and supporting a lightweight construction - a metal roof and largely glazed walls. The steel columns are set outside the building envelope to avoid the need for fire-protective cladding. The shallow-pitch aluminium roof has a large overhang which protects the walls and permits generous areas of glazing to be used without solar gain; the overhang is deep enough to protect the steel fire-escape staircase which, under a new section of the Building Regulations, had to be sheltered.

A new two-storey extension has been built onto the south wall of the old building with, for visual consistency, the same roof and wall materials as the first-floor addition. Internal access to the new teaching spaces is via a steel bridge and a new steel staircase with beech treads.

The joints and junctions of materials on the facade of the new exposed steel column structure are clearly expressed. The bases of the steel columns are chisel-shaped to sit within forked bolt connectors which rest on precast- concrete pads. The junction between the 1963 building and the new first floor is dressed with lead sheet. The tops of the columns branch out to become tree-like spars which support the roof overhang and the wide gutter; a chs tube runs along the perimeter of the roof edge to allow cleaning and to protect the delicate aluminium edge of the roof from damage.

The columns are bolted to glulam-beam portal frames which support the roof at 4.5m centres; the frames are connected at the ridge by flitched plates and braced by tie bars. The roof is covered with Butler mr24 mill- finish aluminium sheet with standing seams.

The walls are glazed with an aluminium-clad timber window system with Eternit Resoplan solid infill panels. The materials were chosen to give low maintenance, and to mellow and mature with age. The steel structure is galvanised, the roof has a natural aluminium finish and the window frames are polyester powder coated.


ARCHITECT Robert L Adams Architects: Robert L Adams, Garry Costin, Christopher Pring, Fernanda Pagnossin

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Norman Crossley & Partners



SUPPLIERS steelwork fabricator miw Fabrications, roof Butler mr24, external cladding Eternit, windows Rationel Windows, staircases Ironworks uk, glulam Axis Timber

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