School Works, an initiative developed by the Architecture Foundation, was created so as to determine whether or not there was a connection between the design of a school building and the learning standards, morale and behaviour of those attending it. In 1998, Kingsdale School, once a dilapidated comprehensive, was chosen as the prototype for this experiment.
The designers and architects who were a part of this initiative wanted to radically recycle, rather than replace, the school campus and it was this decision which transformed Kingsdale Foundation School. The re-design of the building, along with the changes made in the management of the school, resulted in sustainable, fundamental improvements to both academic performance and behavioural issues. Evidence of these changes can be seen in the official data which show ongoing improvements in exam results and outstanding behaviour and attendance.
The school building, constructed during the late fifties, was strategically redefined and edited, using one of the biggest ETFE roofs in the world. This transparent sheet which now covers the courtyard helped to create a ventilated and naturally lit space which is now home not only to a canteen, but also a geodesic, timber auditorium. Inside of the auditorium – or the ‘Pod’ as it is known-lies an integrated sculpture created by the artist Atelier Van Lieshout. The renovation project was carried out in phases, so as to make sure that the construction work did not intrude on student life too much.
The atrium was part of the first phase; following the positive reactions to it, the second phase was initiated. This involved the development of brand new music and sports buildings. These structures were made using timber panel, carbon negative construction materials. The designers who worked on them wanted to transform these somewhat generic, empty spaces into an expressive form of architecture which provided maximum flexibility and natural light.
‘Angular form’ was the theme for the music building; using just flat-packed timber, the design team managed to create an inspirational space which now features roof sculptures and innovative cladding detailing. The second phase was completed at the beginning of 2007. Such was the success of the project overall, that Kingsdale Foundation School was featured on the Channel 4 series, The Secret Life of Buildings, which examined how our physical surroundings affect our feelings and our behaviour.