Highgate School development prioritises sustainability

The development will have a fully equipped art studio, science labs and design technology workshop

A development for Highgate School by architects Architype has been handed-over in time for the start of the new academic year.

Situated on Bishopswood Road in Highgate, the historical site has long been the home of the Junior School. The plan conceived for the School incorporates an inviting entrance and well-orientated layout, coupled with a continuous connection to the established landscape; creating a strong civic presence on the street side and direct visual links out to the cricket pitch on the west side.

The unfettered presence of the new school sits subtly in its established surroundings, despite the building’s footprint and multi-storey design. With a minimal yet striking entrance, the school building extends into the site incorporating, Ingleholme, a 19th Century villa that has been sensitively refurbished as part of the development. As one of the last of its era in Highgate, Ingleholme has been linked to the new element through a series of glazed units. 

The heart of the school is a generous, naturally lit circulation space to which each element of the school is directly linked. Ceramic flooring, interrupted with colourful marble patterns to reflect the School’s passion for natural sciences command a sense of contemporary grandeur, complemented by 17 sculptures and reliefs in and around the school. These include a stone-carved chameleon on the stone staircase and a bronze cast pangolin hanging from one of the overhead glulam beams.

The space assumes a wide variety of uses, from secluded pods for focused study, to amphitheatre style arrangements for informal performance and creative learning experiences. Lit by continuous overhead glazing and sections of floor to ceiling glazing, the feeling of light and airiness is akin to that of an atrium space, without the negative effects of overheating and glare thanks to the smart use of shading and an MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery) strategy, which circulates fresh air at optimised temperatures throughout the school, supporting the buildings passive design principles.

Arranged along a west-facing crescent, each standard classroom benefits from open views to the landscape, shaded by protruding vertical fins, constructed from some of the 55,000 handmade bricks that dominate the school façade, and topped by 580m2 of wild flower meadow green roof. In addition to the classrooms are shared specialised areas, such as a fully equipped art studio, science labs and design technology workshop.

The performing arts department is located entirely in the retrofitted Ingleholme building, for which the primary access has been re-routed internally through the main school.

The new Junior School is both an exciting challenge and wonderful opportunity. We now have a site which provides the best possible environment for learning and discovery – Mark James, Principal

Mark James, School Principal said, “The new Junior School is both an exciting challenge and wonderful opportunity. We now have a site which provides the best possible environment for learning and discovery”.

Estates Director, Chris Birbeck, who along with Simon Martini, the School’s Capital Projects Manager, played a key role in shaping the brief and managing the project form the client side said: “Architype understood perfectly the ingredients required to create an optimal learning environment; the use of light, space and the incorporation of natural materials into a cleverly considered collection of spaces that flow together naturally and which also commune seamlessly with the outside teaching and play areas.”

Besides adding a layer to Highgate School’s deep-rooted history, the passive approach to the energy strategy will form the basis of a sustainable new future for the school, designed to a 100-year life-cycle. Benefitting from superb air tightness and a robust heating and cooling strategy, the School is providing up to 10% of its own energy, with the integration on photovoltaic solar panels.


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