Structural Engineering: Price & Myers
Landscape Architects: b:d Landscape
Services Engineering: Peter Deer Associates
Project Management & Qs: Arcadis
Planning Consultant: Gerald Eve
Client: Alpha Plus Group
Budget: €4.4 M
Hilden Grange is an independent preparatory school located in the market town of Tonbridge in Kent. It is a day school for children aged three to thirteen, run by the Alpha Plus Group.
Like many preparatory schools in the UK the original school has been operating out of a Victorian building expanding into short- term temporary classrooms as pupil numbers have grown. Hawkins\Brown was appointed in 2010 to redevelop the school’s facilities.
The school is located on a steeply sloping site within a conservation area and is surrounded by mature trees. The original Victorian building is located on the highest point of the school grounds commanding impressive views of the Kent Weald.
The new scheme restores views of the surrounding countryside, which had been obscured by the addition of temporary classrooms. It makes an asset of the topography of the site by placing landscape at the heart of the estate. External play spaces and circulation form a central spine with wings of accommodation on either side. A sunken centralised dining/assembly hall large enough to accommodate the whole school connects the two wings. Full height curtain wall glazing and doors allow direct access onto external dining areas and outdoor amphitheatre.
With a pitched roof the west wing is redolent of the Victorian building but is contemporary in its use of materials – cedar shingles with matching rain- screen wall cladding. The east wing has an undulating intensive green meadow roof with vertical larch rain-screen cladding.
New facilities include specialist art and science classrooms and a library which is organised over several floors accommodating different key stages on separate tiers with external learning and play ‘terraces’ tailored to each age group. Colour is used boldly throughout the scheme to denote different key stage areas and to create an attractive environment to inspire learning.
With the exception of the new assembly/dining hall, which is built from blockwork and concrete, all other new facilities are constructed from Prefabricated Cross Laminated Timber, a modern method of construction which creates well insulated naturally ventilated rooms using a sustainable material.
The construction process is highly efficient, with components being manufactured offsite ensuring that the works could be completed in a single academic year with minimal disruption to the normal school routine. The Cross Laminated Timber is exposed internally allowing the pupils of the school to understand the structure and materialisation of the new facilities.
The new facilities are named the Ritblat Building after Sir John Ritblat, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Alpha Plus Group. Pupils took occupation at the start of the academic year 2012-13 and the transformative impact has already been acknowledged by teachers of the school.
“The new buildings at Hilden Grange designed by Hawkins Brown have transformed our school. Children and staff now enjoy a wonderful learning environment which is innovative, attractive and sustainable. All aspects of the design are highly impressive, from the individually designed classrooms and specialist areas to the excellent use of the topography and provision of play and communal space between the wings of the building. The attention to detail is also outstanding with a carefully thought out internal and external colour scheme that compliments the buildings educational purpose. At every stage of the project Hawkins Brown were a delight to work with and their involvement also included extensive consultation and liaison with teachers and students to ensure the right outcomes for all concerned.’’
John Withers, Headmaster