Project Spotlight: Woodford Green Prep School

Laura O’Hagan, Director at Buckley Gray Yeoman, explains how the masterplan for the Woodford Green Prep School responds not only to the needs of the school, but benefits the wider community.

We were approached by Woodford Green Prep School, an independent school of 384 pupils in north east London, to create additional classrooms that were flexible and respond to an idea for a multi-purpose events space that could serve the school and wider community.

We initially developed a masterplan that identified the school’s options for development and how we could maximise the potential for the site, what buildings could be demolished or reused, and how to avoid reducing the existing green space on the school’s site. We also proposed adding an additional entrance to the school to create a new public face while ensuring a safe and secure site. Following this, we were asked to design a multi-purpose teaching building at this new entrance location.

The new building is both distinctive and contextual and has been designed with the school’s future use and flexibility in mind. We wanted the building to serve an outward expression of the school’s identity, which is given additional importance as this is the only part of the school to be visible from the public realm. As an ‘entrance building’ it will enable the school to look more outwardly to the wider community and make the school accessible for local use.  At the heart of the plan is a 90sqm multi-use space designed to accommodate different activities and uses throughout the day and the academic year. It will also create an income stream for the school through community use, being accessible through dedicated and managed access from the main road at nominated times. It is designed as an acoustically protected space with a semi-sprung floor allowing for a huge variety of uses.

By making the community use clearly visible from the street, we have sought to create a space which the community will recognise as a new local amenity as well as a high-quality learning environment for the school.

Above the multi-purpose space, six large classrooms and an art studio will have high levels of natural light, reducing the need for artificial lighting and making them adaptable for future uses.

The design takes elements of the existing context and interprets them in a new way, to create a building that is both sympathetic and contemporary.  Known locally as ‘The Red School’ due to the colour of the uniform, red is a key part of Woodford Green Preparatory School’s history and identity. As an outward expression of this identity the external materials are chosen from a complimentary palette of warm reds and naturally earthy tones. Handmade red bricks with a red-tinted matching mortar will be used for the upper storeys, including feature detailing to the front façade. A darker red brick creates a plinth at ground floor level, with vertical course detailing to express the colonnade that creates shelter from the sun and rain.

On the north elevation (the ‘public’ face of the building), a two-storey vertical picture window will act as a ‘shopfront’ to the school whilst a ‘W’-profile roof provides the abundant north light into the art studio and classrooms. The elegant roof profile breaks down the massing of the building and complements features of its domestic neighbours.

We worked with Woodford Green’s project team, special interest groups, and staff to ensure that the new building has the flexibility to meet both the School’s current needs and future requirements, as well as offering a facility to the local community. The design is a contemporary and sustainable response that looks to the future of the school.