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Reed Watts wins Surrey school clubhouse contest

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Rising practice Reed Watts has won a competition for a new ‘memorial clubhouse’ at the City of London Freemen’s School in Surrey

The Fitzrovia-based practice defeated an undisclosed shortlist of emerging practices to win the contest, which was organised and hosted by the online start-up procurement portal, Architects’ Republic.

The project – backed by the Old Freemen’s Association (OFA) – will create a landmark clubhouse commemorating former students of the coeducational private school in its rural grounds in Ashtead Park, Surrey.

The appointment comes just a year after the emerging studio won a high-profile ideas competition, organised by Commonweal Housing, to transform disused structures into temporary living spaces for homeless Romanian migrants.

Commenting on the latest contest win, Reeds Watts said: ‘Set in Ashtead Park, a Grade II-listed historic park and garden, our proposal responds sensitively to the challenges inherent in this environment. Partially cut into the hillside and clad in weathered timber, the building is extremely discreet.

‘We have minimised the impact on trees and ecology by carefully situating the building in the more open part of the site, which also provides a stronger relationship with the playing fields. The compact, folded plan creates an intimate south-facing terrace, shielded from the adjacent road and making the most of the woodland setting.

‘The original clubhouse was built as a memorial to members killed during the war and the new building will incorporate salvaged materials to provide a tangible link with the old structure.’

The project is yet another parklands win for the emerging practice. In June, Reeds Watts completed a new 480m² ‘woodland studio’ for Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and the practice is currently working on plans for a new sports pavilion for Teddington Cricket Club in Bushy Park.

The latest scheme is part of an ongoing £20 million regenreation masterplan for the school, which has already delivered a new boarding house and facilities, music centre and swimming pool by Hawkins\Brown. 

Reed Watts was chosen from a five-strong shortlist selected from 58 practices which expressed interest in the commission through the Architects’ Republic website, which works with clients to develop a brief prior to soliciting applications.

Reed Watts said: ‘We responded to the brief on the Architects’ Republic website as it resonated with some of our current projects which are also located historic landscape settings. As a small practice, it’s a real benefit to us that the initial stage is as simple and quick as possible, in contrast to traditional open competitions, where there is a tendency to spend more time than might actually be warranted. This is hard for a small practice to sustain, so we’d love to see the Architects’ Republic model expand to publicly funded and OJEU projects.’

Nikki Linsell of the OFA said: ‘Our organisation had never appointed an architect before and being guided through the process was invaluable, as was being able to easily send details of our project to a huge number of SME architecture practices from across the UK, and to have seen, at first hand, the power of competitive procurement on raising the quality of proposals.’

A planning application for the new clubhouse is expected in the autumn.

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