The vibrant volume

Jonathan Clark
19 Oct 2009

New library and learning centre gives colourful statement to tires 60's school

The two storey extension and partial conversion of an existing two-storey 1960s constructed building at Longford Community School in Feltham near Heathrow has just completed. A 200 sq m structurally-expressed timber supported extension plus a total area of 550 sq m of existing space was converted to house two new classrooms and a Fitness Centre at ground level with a new library/learning centre at first floor.

The challenge here was how to successfully extend a very dull and lifeless brick-built teaching block. Jonathan Clark Architects chose to build a vibrantly colourful timber structure that straddles the end of the block almost as a kind of articulated three dimensionally layered book-end. The aim was to design something visually and aesthetically interesting that the pupils and school staff alike can enjoy and feel inspired by.

It was the wish of the client that the main materials selected for the extension should be procured in an environmentally responsible way, hence the use of sustainable timber for the structure.

The architects used bespoke designed colour-stained Finnish softwood laminated ‘fins’ (Finnforest Merk Kerto Q system) that support both the first floor structure and the roof. Unusually for this material, the structure is completely external and exposed to the elements and after much research was pressure impregnated in order that it could perform to these conditions and give a suitable lifespan (30 years) for the new building. Jonathan Clark Architects believe that this is the first time (in this country) that bare (i.e. not clad over) laminated timber has been used to support a building externally.

In between each fin are aluminium grating panels that provide more solar control as well as some structural stiffening to the external structure. The roof is a timber structure clad with silver ‘Trespa’ panels and is designed to give the impression of floating/sliding across the exposed timber roof beams.

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