The project is a response to significant shifts in the educational landscape, delivering new learning spaces with creativity, innovation and partnership at their heart, and a pastoral environment that supports the wellbeing of pupils and staff.
The new master plan aims to offer students and teachers a 21st Century learning environment, whilst retaining the character and prestige of the listed Edwardian buildings.
The master plan alters the existing main building, designed by Gerald Horsley between 1903 and 1911, by creating permeability throughout the underutilised lower ground floor, whilst retaining and enhancing the historic spaces above. Two new buildings replace a redundant swimming pool and gymnasium, themselves much altered, and no longer used for their original purpose following their replacement by modern facilities on the neighbouring sites.
On the western side of the campus is the two-storey Centre for Design & Innovation, covering 1,240 sq m. A pioneering building; it is a cross-curricula multifaceted space incorporating technology, design, and maker spaces conceived around collaborative working and shared educational experience. This new type of project-based learning space will allow creative and innovative thinking to flourish and set the next generation of female engineers, technologists, inventors and entrepreneurs on their path to future success.
On the Eastern side, the second new building is a three-storey staff hub, covering 1,110 sq m, which consolidates disparate staff accommodation into a new collegiate and agile working environment. Unusually for a staff facility, it is also designed to be student-centred, improving opportunities for informal communication between staff and students in its close vicinity. This consolidation of staff space also allows the removal of a crudely inserted mezzanine level at the front of the school, which enables the restoration of the historically significant double-height space to Horsley’s original design.
Other works involve remodelling and the refurbishment of the three principal levels of the main building to provide improved pastoral spaces for students including a wellbeing suite, together with upgraded teaching and administrative spaces. Glazed links will join both the Centre for Design & Innovation and Staff Hub to the main building creating a continuous concourse at the lower ground level. These link spaces will transform the flow of pupils around the school, whilst also providing informal zones for breakout. These interventions will allow accessibility throughout the site to be greatly improved, which is key to enhancing the school’s partnership work.
The two new buildings take their design cues from the Arts and Crafts detailing of Horsley’s original. Contemporary gable forms, chimneys and red brick and stone detailing allow them to sympathetically integrate into the school campus. Sustainability has informed design thinking from the outset. The chimneys are part of a ventilation strategy that maximises natural ventilation and includes a labyrinth thermal mass for temperature stability. Glulam and cross-laminated timber form the majority of the superstructures, which alongside the re-use of existing masonry, significantly reduces embodied carbon of the new buildings, whilst the introduction of site-wide ambient heating and cooling loop is linked to heat pumps will substantially reduce operational carbon. Planning approval was granted in late 2020 and progress remains underway.
This master plan is extensive, holistic and aspirational, addressing multiple challenging needs in a precious listed building. Jestico + Whiles have exceeded our expectations and have been tremendous to work with. We are very grateful that we now have approval for the next phases in this very exciting building plan.Ellis Whitcomb, Deputy Head, Director of Strategic Development, St Paul’s Girls’ School