An undulating mesh screen was employed on the new Holland Park School in West London to minimize solar gain and lessen the visual impact of the building on the surrounding neighborhood. © Aedas
A prestigious school in West London has a dazzling new home, complete with a spectacular atrium and classes flooded with natural light.
December 18, 2012—The prestigious Holland Park School in West London recently moved into a dramatic new six-story structure that features an impressive undulating copper, brass, and bronze façade, evocative of the trees in nearby Holland Park. The new building employs a massive steel A frame in one section to create a vast open atrium and lecture halls, flooded with natural light.
The new structure replaces the original Holland Park School, which opened in 1958 in the exclusive West London neighborhood where apartments today sell in excess of $4 million. The school was once a model for progressive education in postwar Europe, and has a reputation for excellence, counting many accomplished journalists, politicians, and actors as alums—including actress Angelica Houston.
Small classrooms and dated mechanical systems were among key factors that prompted the project. The new structure, owned by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC), consolidates the functions of several aging buildings on the campus into a single, state-of-the-art facility.
The design dates to 2004, when the architecture firm Aedas, London, teamed with the engineering firm Buro Happold, Bath, United Kingdom, and cost consultants Gardiner & Theobald, London, to develop the successful bid in a invited competition. The borough’s instructions, according to Peter Oborn, the deputy chairman of Aedas, were to produce “a world-class building [that] doesn’t look like a school.”
The building is designed to maximize natural light in the
classrooms. © Aedas
“The principal challenge faced by the design team was how to redevelop the school on the site of the existing building while keeping the existing school in operation throughout,” said Oborn, in written comments to Civil Engineering online. The project required demolition of a wing of the original school to make way for the new structure, while accommodating the school’s 1,500 students.
“The phasing of the project to allow the construction to proceed within the grounds of a fully operation building were immense,” Oborn said.
“This required the construction of a four-story temporary classroom block and the construction of a temporary energy center—as the main plant rooms were demolished as one of the first elements of work on-site,” added Angus Palmer, CEng, a director of Buro Happold, in written comments to Civil Engineering online. “This process was further complicated by the absence of any as-built drawings, the disruptive nature of any survey work, and the presence of asbestos within the original school buildings.”
A structural steel A-frame creates a dramatic atrium in one portion
of the building while providing the strength for large, open spaces
in the basement for a swimming pool and sports facility. © Aedas
The new building is 100 m long by 30 m wide. Oborn said the building comprises three distinct sections. A 7 m deep basement houses the kitchen and dining hall, as well as a sports hall and a 25 m competition swimming pool. Aboveground, the east portion of the building houses more traditional classroom space, and was constructed using cast-in-place concrete columns and flat slabs. This common solution is strong, inexpensive, and provides acoustic separation between floors.
“On the west side of the building the 19 m spans required above the basement sports facilities meant that in situ concrete was not a viable option,” Palmer said. “A steel transfer frame was used because it is best suited to longer span constructions. The A-frame structure straddles the larger spaces within the basement to create these clear span spaces without the use of transfer structural elements.”
Hollow-core precast, prestressed concrete floor planks, 300 mm deep, span as much as 10 m between the steel frames, providing acoustic separation between floors and significantly reducing the amount of secondary steelwork that would be required to support a composite deck construction, Palmer said.
“The steel transfer frame was constructed using 610 mm deep standard I sections for the floor beams with 350 mm deep H sections forming the braces in between floors,” Palmer said. “The frame works by spanning the classrooms between the perimeter column and a hanging column [that] takes the load up to the roof level where a large plate girder transfers the load across to the inclined column [that] forms the architectural shape of the atrium.”
To finance the $120-million project, RBKC sold sports fields on an adjacent site and then sought to recoup that space through consolidation into a smaller footprint. This requirement resulted in a taller building. Once the temporary structure and the old school are demolished, the school will actually have more outdoor space on the site.
“A considerable amount of time and attention was spent on the detail design development of the elevational appearance and elevational performance,” Oborn said. “This was such an important aspect of the project owing to the size of the building and its prominent location in such a sensitive part of London, situated adjacent to Holland Park and an existing residential community.”
The five-story-tall fins reduce solar gain and minimize glare off the
building into the park. © Aedas
The east façade is covered with stainless steel mesh to both reduce solar gain and minimize the appearance of the building in the neighborhood. The west façade, which will eventually overlook new sports fields, faces the 54-acre wood oasis of Holland Park, and is covered with alternating vertical fins in brass, copper, and bronze.
“The fins have been designed to reflect the adjacent park, and have been engineered to reduce both glare and solar gain,” Oborn explains.
The project was developed to avoid significant trees protected by a preservation order. Also the site houses Thorpe Lodge, a protected historical building that was maintained as an ancillary space for the school.
“A greater challenge was the stringent flood risk requirement set by the Environment Agency,” Palmer said. The new structure was required to discharge no more than 8 liters of water per second per hectare, a figure Palmer said is equivalent to a green field the same size. The strict limits are necessary to work within constraints of the area’s sewer infrastructure, much of which dates to the Victorian era.
“In order to achieve this,” Palmer said, “large attenuation tanks will be constructed below the sports fields that will capture and retain rainwater during storms and then slowly release the water into the sewer at a controlled rate of flow.”
Phase three of the project, removal of the remaining portions of the existing school and conversion of that space into sports fields, will begin soon and is expected to be complete by September 2013.