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Kingsdale Foundation School – Buildings with a Heart

School buildings are essentially designed for learning. Yet with students spending so mucKingsdale Foundation Schoolh time within their walls, the built environment also has a responsibility to provide a space that is supportive and inclusive. Kingsdale Foundation School is one school where this concept has been embraced wholeheartedly.

Based in Dulwich, south London, Kingsdale Foundation School attracts students from across the area, many from very deprived neighbourhoods. To have a learning environment that is bright and welcoming is important to the self-esteem of all children and Kingsdale Foundation School is like a beacon of light that guides its students through their educational experience.

Kingsdale Foundation School was constructed in the late 1950s, and for forty years the mid-twentieth century architecture served the Kingsdale Foundation School community well. Yet constant use by young people takes its toll on buildings, and by the turn of the century Kingsdale Foundation School was in desperate need of physical modernisation. The school agreed to take part in an innovative programme called School Works.

Run by the Architecture Foundation, the philosophy behind School Works is all about the significant impact that the physical, built environment can have on the learning experience of students.  Kingsdale Foundation School was a prime candidate for the programme, and innovative architects dRMM set about developing designs for Kingsdale Foundation School that would revitalise the educational space, and bring the school up-to-date.

At the centre of Kingsdale Foundation School is a quadrangle nestled between the U-shaped main buildings. It was a largely unused part of the original Kingsdale Foundation School grounds. dRMM opted to retain and modernise this part of the campus, and in a stroke of architectural genius designed an awe-inspiring roof structure to span the quadrangle and create an “internal” communal space. This design was a revelation, and the introduction of open, raised walkways helps to link the old with the new, and the new covered atrium has become the heart of Kingsdale Foundation School.

The centrepiece of this new communal space is an asymmetrical geodesic structure, built from timber, which houses a spacious auditorium. Its pleasing shape gives it a heart-like appearance, and when it pulses with the music of live student performances, or the amplified murmurings of the congregated Kingsdale Foundation School population, the auditorium truly represents the heart of Kingsdale Foundation School.

Students at Kingsdale Foundation School are fiercely proud of their campus. Respect for their environment is encouraged and displayed at every turn. Prior to the building works, Kingsdale Foundation School was a school in trouble. With the dedication of staff, sound new school policies, an injection of architectural magic, Kingsdale Foundation School is now a thriving educational environment that is in high demand.

Space-Age School Building Project | Kingsdale Foundation School

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.

Kingsdale Foundation school