Situated in a central Cambridge conservation area, the building carefully addresses the scale and character of the surrounding urban fabric whilst providing a dynamic new focus for the school. Formed by the overhang of the rooftop sports pitch, an external canopy has been expressed in a deep weave of glulam beams that spread from the activity space out into the courtyard like a tree canopy, supported by organically-shaped tilted columns. A crisply detailed brick plinth wraps around the building, visually supporting a bronze-clad suite of learning spaces. It is this material richness which greatly adds to the impact of the building
The new building sits between, and connects to, two existing school buildings, improving access to both and providing ‘connective tissue’ for the whole school. To the northwest of the site, a new double-height entrance and reception space is formed at the junction of new and old. Here, Panton House, a two-storey Victorian building has been refurbished to form a new reception and office spaces, linked to the main building by a lightweight glazed bridge. This forms a new ‘porter’s lodge’ style gateway to the school, providing views into the site and allowing the school to engage with the street. Through this entrance, an intimate courtyard is visible and provides a quiet space for study and relaxation.
At ground level, a flexible activity space creates a new multi-functional heart to the school, opening out beneath a double-height canopy and supported by a woven structure of glulam beams and twisting columns to the surrounding school grounds beyond. This organic tree-like canopy partly supports the rooftop sports pitch which spans perpendicularly across the sports hall.
The four-court sports hall, alongside changing rooms and support facilities is sunk into a basement level, reducing the height of the hall and impact on adjacent buildings, as well as allowing the classrooms above to link through with the adjacent STEM building. Used for a variety of different sports including basketball, badminton, basketball and volleyball, the hall can also be used for exams, with two banks of recessed retractable seating for 280 people able to be used for school assemblies and larger scale events.
The upper two storeys of the building house a number of teaching, informal learning and social spaces, which at second floor, open out onto the MUGA. Putting the MUGA on the roof posed a number of challenges for the design team in terms of structure, cost, planning, acoustics, over-shadowing, lighting and massing, but it’s location on the roof greatly freed up the site for the landscape strategy to be implemented and is greatly enjoyed by the pupils.
The superstructure utilises a system of cross laminated timber (CLT) and steel trusses to support the 20m clear width of the sports hall, 2 storeys of classrooms and MUGA. Internally, great use has been made of the exposed timber finish of the structure. CLT was deemed the most efficient solution in terms of cost, time, structure and reducing noise levels during construction, while the school was still in operation. Forming part of wider strategy to design a high performance envelope with a low carbon footprint and allow for natural ventilation and high levels of natural daylight, the building provides sustainable new facilities to support the school’s excellent teaching and learning for the next generation of pupils.