Kingsdale Foundation School was the subject of an extensive, futuristic remodelling that could potentially alter the way we view educational buildings forever. The ground-breaking, award-winning project features the largest communal space in any UK school to date in the form of a geodesic dome, a new music block created in angular form in consideration of acoustic reverberation, and a sports hall that allows natural daylight without compromising on safety or playability.
The main auditorium is now in use as a multi-purpose space comprising of entry, circulation, dining, library and assembly areas. It has secondary use as a performance hall, film venue, presentation and meeting space and can comfortably seat three hundred people. Aerial walkways replace the traditional school corridors creating space for seating, providing sightlines and connecting staircases. This auditorium is currently the largest learning space in Britain and is used to encourage extra-curricular activity outside of the usual channels of learning.
Due to the use of computer-controlled cutting machines and materials giving a span to weight ratio of just 30kg/m² architects were able to superimpose the new EFTE ‘variable skin’ dome directly onto the existing super-structure without requirements for foundations. The materials used for the roof use integrated, automatic passive through-ventilation which mimics levels of solar activity and provides natural lighting throughout. Additional ventilation is implemented through ‘useful art’ sculptures. The auditorium provides a brand new focal heart for Kingsdale Foundation School, which was on the brink of demolition before the project was authorised. The brief for the auditorium and attached teaching accommodation was worked out through a lengthy and inclusive consultation process with all involved, especially the pupils.
The music block was created as a completely sustainable prefabricated construction project. Unique soundproof windows and the introverted character of the building make the acoustic reverberation ideal in a school that has long been noted for excellence in the music department.
The new sports hall moves away from the traditional ‘box’ dictated by the DfES and Sport England guidelines. The use of cross-laminated timber with factory quality finish enabled the architects to create a space that let in natural daylight without causing glare or other safety concerns.
Since construction the new build at Kingsdale Foundation School has won a series of architectural awards including the 2005 Building of the Year award presented by the Royal Fine Art Commission and the 2004 Wood Award for the auditorium. In 2008, the school was Highly Commended at the World Architecture Festival Awards in the Learning Category.