Sevenoaks School was founded in the 15th Century and is now one of the most successful co-educational independent schools in the country, with over 1000 pupils.
In 2005 Tim Ronalds Architects devised a Masterplan to guide the school’s development. A key part of the Masterplan was the proposal for three new buildings around a new courtyard. The first of these three buildings was ‘The Space’ Performing Arts Centre completed by Tim Ronalds Architects in 2010. The next major development was to create new facilities for Science and Technology, and for the Sixth Form. Following a competition, Tim Ronalds Architects were selected from a list of 15 practices to design the new buildings.
Project name: Sevenoaks School Science and Technology Centre and Global Study Centre (STGSC)
Client: Sevenoaks School Foundation
Location: Kent, United Kingdom
Complete: August 2018
Building scale: 7,200 sq.m
Construction value: £23 million
Project value: £30 million
Building Cost per square meter: £3,080/m2
Type: New Build
Architect: Tim Ronalds Architects Structure: Eckersley O’Callaghan
Services, Environmental Design, BREEAM: Max Fordham Acoustics: Ramboll
Cost Consultant: Bristow Johnson
Project Manager: Synergy Construction & Property Consultants Approved Inspector: JM Partnership (Surveyors) Ltd
Main Contractor: Gilbert-Ash
Photography: Hélène Binet, David Merewether
Drawings: Tim Ronalds Architects
RIBA National Award for Architecture RIBA South East Award for Architecture RIBA South East ‘Client of the Year’
RICS South East ‘Design through Innovation Award’ Winner Shueco Excellence Awards, Steel Project Winner
Sevenoaks Society Frank Marshall Award for Townscape Improvement, Winner CEF Construction Excellence Awards – GB & Republic of Ireland Construction Award (Above £5million) – Winner, (Gilbert-Ash)
Concrete Society Awards – Highly Commended
Construction News Awards – Project of the Year (£20m – £50m) – Shortlisted RICS National Awards ‘Design through Innovation Award’ – Shortlisted
RICS South East – Community Benefit Award – Shortlisted
Sevenoaks School Foundation’s ambition was to inspire the next generation of scientists. To meet the School’s exciting ambition, we thought about what kind of spaces most encourage curiosity and collaboration, and invite participation. A key idea is that on entering, you see activity all around: experiments in progress, prototypes being tested, displays, longer-term work slowly developing – students, technicians and teachers in activity, discussion and debate.
This 3-storey atrium is entered at the middle level, from which are views up, down, and through to the landscape beyond. 20 teaching laboratories, 2 advanced project labs for long-term experiments, a data logging room, Technology classrooms, workshops, CAD-CAM suite, computer rooms, Technicians’ areas, IT services team, and offices, are all enclosed with glazed screens allowing activity to be seen. Vitrine display cases to house scientific equipment, artefacts, and student work line the atrium. Teaching spaces open onto shared write-up and discussion areas – the buzz of creativity continues outside of class.
Labs are arranged with Chemistry on the top floor to allow fume venting directly through the roof, Biology below, looking out to the greenery of Knole. Technology workshops are at lower ground level, with outdoor access to the east, for prototype testing.
The Global Study Centre cafe opens onto the south-facing courtyard, with spacious SixthForm social, meeting and office spaces above.
The two blocks are arranged to frame and enclose the courtyard. The smaller mass of the Global Study Centre complements the older buildings of the adjacent conservation area, and the buildings step down the hillside, following the natural slope of the terrain. The distinctive saw-tooth roof ridges align east-west pointing into the landscape. A 725 m2 multipurpose hall for lectures, exhibitions, and functions is tucked into the sloped site, making use of clerestory windows.
A golden grey brick was chosen to match the Kent ragstone of older school buildings, and create a coherent whole. Against the warm masonry, the metalwork of window frames are in a variety of tones, to give rhythm across the facades and break up their repetition. Golds and bronzes face the natural landscape and conservation area. Facing the courtyard are flashes of gold, pink and orange windows – a joyous and lively feel to suit this new school space.
The feel of the interior is robust, practical, and ‘hands-on’. The concrete frame and precast roof, exposed throughout for thermal mass, contain 50% GGBS to give a warm creamy appearance. Inclined ribbed precast concrete roof slabs give an elegant and dynamic structural appearance, reflecting light into the spaces below. Floors are bandsawn oak. Interior glazed screens are sparkly white, as a foil to the more industrial concrete, steel, and timber. Putty-coloured natural rubber floors, and white Corian and maple worktops provide a neutral backdrop to the creative work in labs and workshops.
The same construction of concrete, timber, northlights and glazed screens are used across the two parts of the building to create a consistent characterful whole – but while the Science and Technology building feels spacious, light and transparent; the Global Study Centre’s joinery, colour, and soft furnishings give a warmer more intimate feel.
The building form was developed by analysis of passive environmental design principles, and the building is designed to exceed the requirements of BREEAM Excellent. Comfort was assessed using year 2050 weather data for climate change resilience. The building has carbon emissions of 14.1 kgCO2/m2.yr – a 14% reduction in emissions compared to a Building Regulations Part L2A compliant building.
About Tim Ronalds Architects:
Tim Ronalds Architects is a London-based architectural practice established in 1982, which has established a reputation for buildings of outstanding quality and character. The practice specialises in arts, education, masterplanning and conservation projects, and is committed to working on projects with a clear social agenda.
The practice has achieved significant awards success. Notable award-winning projects include: Hackney Empire, London (2004); The Space performing arts centre, Sevenoaks School (2010); Wilton’s Music Hall, London (2015); Sevenoaks School Science and Technology Centre (2018). Recent wins include a 2021 AJ Retrofit Award, 2021 RIBA National Award, RIBA South East Building of the Year Award and RIBA South East Conservation Award for The Malthouse, The King’s School, Canterbury (2019).
Current projects include: a new sixth form centre and library for Worth School in Sussex and the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration in Clerkenwell, London.