RIBA South West 2019 Award Winners
RIBA South West Project Architect of the Year
Kingswood Preparatory School
Set in woodland, the new buildings sit comfortably on their raised gently undulating site, inviting with an understated charm. There is a feeling of ease and space between the buildings, their pitched roofs and low forms intentionally familiar and of a scale young children can relate to.
The walls and roofs are clad in Western Red Cedar shingles on a base of pale brick, making a beautifully textured whole. Window cills and reveals are also carefully detailed in timber and, with the shingles, will be allowed to gradually silver down. The composition in this way works well both from a distance and close-up, and the tactile materials and patterns are clearly enjoyed by staff, parents and children alike.
Great care has been taken to scale the building and elements to relate to the age groups of the children. Starting with the nursery, doorways, windows and play platforms are at low level, linking views through to small outside play areas. This dedication to a (small) human centred design is evident throughout the school. Almost imperceptibly the rooms, openings and fittings grow in scale as the child progresses through the years.
The older prep school years 5 and 6 are arranged around a central common group learning space. The school’s priority of transparency and connectivity is achieved with generous large glazed internal windows through to every teaching space. The spaces feel acoustically calm with woodfibre acoustic boards on soffits, high performance acoustic doors and retractable screens. The plan form is ordered and controlled, yet the spaces feel varied, through a composition of roof shape and height. The arrangement of spine walls conceal services. The main hall is tall and light, flanked by small music practice rooms. The main internal finish is exposed Cross Laminated Timber which, like the exterior, achieves a freshness in its simplicity.
The close relationship of the architect and client throughout the design and delivery of these new school buildings is evident, for example in the bespoke designed fixed furniture, from plan chest storage in art rooms to nursery play structures. But even more so in the pride of both in describing the challenges of prioritising within a tight budget and timescale to achieve the overall result – a place for the children that is conducive to learning.
The strong relationship of the client and architect, what has been achieved on an economic budget and the level of innovation in the use and patterning of the shingles and all highly impressive.
This project also won RIBA South West Award 2019
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