School buildings are essentially designed for learning. Yet with students spending so much 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.