Phillips Tracey Architects have updated and extended Donhead Preparatory School in Wimbledon to incorporate 4 new classrooms, a 150 seat auditorium, a double height art room and a 50 seat chapel. The scheme has carefully linked separate elements of the existing school into a coherent building that sensitively juxtaposes old with new, improving accessibility, general circulation and facilities throughout the school.
The Chapel is the centrepiece of the development – with capacity for 50 people, it enables the school to hold mass services, prayer services and the daily Examen for individual classes at the end of the school day.
The alterations to the school, which began in July 2015 and were completed in September 2016, respect the original 19th century buildings on site. From a distance the school now reads as one entity. However in looking more closely lightweight links separate old from new enabling a clear reading of the school’s chronological development.
The main South façade is enriched by the new extension and hints at the schools Jesuit identity, with the gabled façade of the new Chapel continuing the informal gabled elevation of the existing school. Inside the chapel, a roof lantern sits above the altar, within the exposed timber roof cassettes, which express the buildings construction. A stained glass window forms a focal point to the room. Externally, the lantern continues the rhythm of chimneys seen on the original building.
A glazed, covered walkway at the main entrance to the school provides a contemporary appearance to the school upon approach, which is reinforced by the new reception and office beyond. The new two-storey art room uses sliding aluminium doors to flood the classroom with an abundance of natural light from a formally dormant external courtyard.
A limited palette of materials has been used, to reflect the simplicity of the overall design concept, which include complementary red stock brickwork and light reflecting render. The new auditorium is faced with an anthracite colour zinc shingle cladding to create a simple but striking backdrop. Internally, brickwork and in filled windows have been left exposed. White Ash has been used extensively to visually link the new elements whilst providing a rich and robust finish to the auditorium, new staircase, altar and reception desk. Bespoke seating was also designed and commissioned for the reception and chapel.
The scheme has been designed with sustainability in mind. The new extension exceeds the elemental thermal requirements of current Building Regulations and the fabric of the existing building has been upgraded where possible.
The original brief was for the modest conversion of existing roof volumes into additional teaching spaces. However, following further analysis and detailed discussions with the school, an alternative and radical approach was explored. The school could clearly see the potential benefits of a more extensive approach and fully embraced the strategy of linking the existing buildings with new accommodation to inspire future generations of pupils and staff. The completed project exceeded expectations and the new additions have enabled the school to meet its potential.
“We now have an excellent range of facilities, the quality of which any school would be justly proud." “After 83 years Donhead finally has its own Chapel and, as a Jesuit School, is now complete.” G C McGrath, Headmaster.