Creating the best prep school in Central London
18th November 2019
Melanie Bertie from Broadway Malyan discusses transforming four Victorian townhouses into a future-facing prep school
Education providers are having to rapidly adapt; technologies such as the Internet of Things, robotics, virtual reality and artificial intelligence are transforming every aspect of our lives and this will impact on young people more than most. As architects, it is our job to help schools create the environments that will prepare children for a future that can’t easily be predicted.
The global schools’ group Cognita commissioned Broadway Malyan back in 2018 to help create “the best preparatory school in London”. Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School, which opens in September 2020 will be housed within four, six-storey Grade II Listed mid-Victorian townhouses.
Melanie says “Our challenge was to bring these four buildings together to create Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School; a unified entity that inspires learners and teachers, supports the school’s STEAM curriculum, recognises a future of ever-changing possibilities and all of this while respecting the fantastic heritage of the buildings”.
The starting point for the practice’s design proposals was two-fold; to understand the heritage and the potential of the existing buildings, and to identify the delivery of the curriculum within the constrained flow through the buildings. As architects, we often talk about flow, which in this case is the movement of pupils and staff, around our schemes. At Prince’s Gardens, this became critical, as horizontal circulation was limited to a small number of doorways through the separating walls between the four buildings.
We prepared diagrams to illustrate the primary circulation routes and also to specialist spaces; enabling the design team, Cognita and the school’s Senior Leadership Team to visualise the paths around the school. Through this process, we were able to develop a plan that ensured the school will be able to function efficiently. Our starting point was to look at the arrangement of uses within the existing rooms; for example, it made sense to locate the pre-prep classrooms on the lower floors, with pupils moving higher up the buildings as they progress through the school towards Year 6.
A key aspect of the design was to relocate specialist spaces such as the music room to areas with significant architectural features, in order to celebrate the building’s heritage. On the ground floor, a panelled room at the rear lends itself to a school hall and on the first floor, the music room is located within the lavishly embellished drawing room with domed ceiling and extensive classical decoration. These allow the spaces and the historic features to be enjoyed by all.
The construction process is now well underway. The designs prepared by the highly skilled design team, comprising architects, mechanical and electrical engineers, structural and civil engineers, interior designers, fire consultants, acousticians and IT consultants, are being realised.
There have also been several exciting discoveries in the process, such as uncovering a panelled and glazed screen adjacent to the lantern in one of the townhouses which will be restored. Other discoveries are not so fortuitous; a second floor, highly decorated ceiling with mouldings and painting has been revealed, however it is sadly beyond repair. Undoubtedly these buildings will offer up more treasures as the project progresses.
Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School talks about being ‘Prepared. For Everything’ and everyone involved in both the design and construction process has risen to this challenge.
Take a look around our virtual tour to get a feel for how the school will look once it is completed.