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Kingsdale Foundation School – Designed for Life

Kingsdale Foundation School is a secondary school in Dulwich, south London. It has academy status for its specialism in the Performing Arts, and is one of the most oversubscribed state schools in the UK. At least seven students apply for each available place every September. KKingsdale Foundation Schoolingsdale Foundation School is a bright and vibrant environment, one where students have respect for each other, and for the school itself. Kingsdale Foundation School students are a fortunate bunch, but this apparently idyllic picture of a calm, structured, learning environment where pupils thrive has been hard won, and this is one reason why Kingsdale Foundation School students are so fiercely proud.

When Kingsdale Foundation School first opened in 1959 it was considered to be ultra-modern.    Designed by a renowned architect of the day, Kingsdale Foundation School led the way in construction ideas for many schools of the time. 40 years on, in 1999, and the fabric of the site that housed Kingsdale Foundation School was beginning to fall apart. The original Kingsdale Foundation School buildings had done their job well, but as the needs of students evolved they became unfit for modern purposes, and the dark, narrow corridors were just no longer suitable.

Foundation School agreed to take part in a £30 million pilot scheme to totally revamp its infrastructure. More than just a redevelopment project, this School Works scheme run by the Architecture Foundation worked on the premise that learning success is directly linked to the quality of the built environment in which the education takes place. Kingsdale Foundation School received a new design that not only future-proofed it for continuing technological developments, but also provided an inspiring and uplifting workspace.

The success of this pilot project was quantifiably delivered at Kingsdale Foundation School through ongoing improvements in GCSE success rates, the virtual eradication of exclusions, and a significantly and exponential increase in demand for student places. Kingsdale Foundation School students gained more than just a new place to exist. They were the fortunate recipients of a physical school space that invites them to be the best they can be.

Kingsdale Foundation School welcomes students from a wide variety of social and cultural backgrounds. Kingsdale Foundation School promotes an active celebration of this diversity. Values of acceptance, mutual respect and a commitment to succeed in whatever way is most appropriate for each student are at the core of the Kingsdale Foundation School ethos, and are stimulated by the very space in which the students learn.

Kingsdale Foundation School – A Very Modern School

After the 1997 election, the then British government launched a scheme called “Building Schools for the Future” with the specific aim of refurbishing and replacing every single state secondary school in the country.  Kingsdale Foundation School is no stranger to this concept, as it was one of the first benefit from the government’s commitment. Kingsdale Foundation School is proof that the scheme did not necessarily mean demolition for schools. The regeneration that has taken place at Kingsdale Foundation School has illustrated in the most striking way just what can be achieved through the clever blending of old and new.

Redevelopment of the site at Kingsdale Foundation School became possible under the School Works scheme run by the Architecture Foundation. Its premise is that academic and personal growth can be enhanced, or hampered, by the surrounding physical environment. When Kingsdale Foundation School agreed to take part in the project it was in drastic need of physical modernisation. The buildings which were constructed in the late 1950s were crumbling and in decay, and the students of Kingsdale Foundation School were struggling to find a positive mindset in this gloomy physical environment.

Phase one of the Kingsdale Foundation School project run by architects dRMM reconfigured the central courtyard area around which the original main building was wrapped. Initially intended to act as a space for Kingsdale Foundation School students to congregate, the area was largely underused, as a design flaw meant that student circulation was directed elsewhere on the site in order to access other buildings. dRMM sought to incorporate this space into their new design, and succeeded in doing so with the introduction of a highly complex and state-of-the-art roof structure over the courtyard, effectively creating a new internal space for Kingsdale Foundation School to use.

Kingsdale Foundation SchoolThe success of this initial Phase sparked the commencement of Phase two. Kingsdale Foundation School was in need of a new music block and a new sports block. dRMM worked their design ‘magic’ once more with these two buildings, incorporating innovative shaping and construction methods into both. Kingsdale Foundation School now benefits from a sports block that is far more than the traditional “big shed”, which is often built to satisfy the dictates of Sports England. Kingsdale Foundation School sports block has been made into a Venturian decorated shed, which has a stunning twisted roof and a creative use of internal space to maximise its usability.

dRMM applied similar creative thought to the Kingsdale Foundation School music block, that includes a perforated envelope construction with glass-covered kidney-shaped openings that act as stunning roof lights on the high vertical surfaces of the building. These modern new buildings have helped to give Kingsdale Foundation School a new lease of life, and have played a key role in transforming the school into one of the most oversubscribed in London.

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