OA 2024 Issue 05



There is little doubt that Christopher Gilkes, Master of the College between 1941 and 1953, was very much a moderniser who considered that the College needed appropriate and progressive facilities to play its part in the reshaping of the country into a post-war New Britain.

delivering buildings with sustainability at the heart of their design. As Tristan comments, ‘sustainability is non-negotiable. We are committed to positively enhancing the context, community and environment in which we work.’ The intention is for the buildings to be as close as possible to having net zero carbon: they will have a very low embodied carbon in their construction and will be highly energy efficient in use. Modern practices recognise that knocking a building down and starting from scratch results in a not inconsiderable carbon footprint. There is a strong sense that new construction projects should work with the existing fabric of a building and include the refurbishment and adaptive reuse of that existing fabric to improve the building’s performance and efficiency. However, working with the existing building is not necessarily the easiest solution; in many ways it becomes like a complex jigsaw puzzle, working around the existing while enhancing and extending. In most schools, 60% of the energy used occurs when the buildings are unoccupied, so the new Lower School is being designed to be extremely energy efficient. To that end, thermal insulation up to 25cm thick will be used in the walls, ground floor and roof. In addition, highly efficient glazing, ventilation, air tightness and the incorporation of solar shading and renewables (solar panels) will ensure that it will use significantly less energy than a typical school building of the same size and type; essentially the building will be wrapped in a highly efficient and continuous thermal envelope. An air source heat pump, which harvests heat from the outside air to warm the building, will provide the required heating and hot water rather than gas boilers. More passive measures, including external solar shading, passive ventilation and natural light, will help ensure that the new building does not suffer from the woes of its predecessor, i.e. being very expensive and inefficient to heat in the winter and acting like a greenhouse in the summer. As important as sustainability was to the brief, so too was consultation with and input from the College community. Over several months, workshops were held with operational and academic staff as well as many pupils to consider everything from how workspaces should be incorporated in the library through to colour schemes and the integration of planting and the external landscape.

The new Junior School (now known by most as the Lower School) was opened in 1948 with 10 classrooms on two floors. It was paid for by the proceeds from the compulsory purchase by the London County Council of four large houses for the Denmark Hill council housing estate, as was sanctioned after long negotiations by an Estates ‘Altering Scheme’ of 1918. The second-form extension was added in 1957 during the mastership of Ronald Groves. A school inspection in the mid-1990s recommended that the Lower School should have its own library (at the time there was a shared facility with the Junior School) and so in 1998 the Raymond Chandler Library took up residence in a smart new green portacabin next to College Road. The plan was for it to be a temporary home for five years or so. Twenty-five years later, in the early part of 2023, the library was demolished to make way for a brand new three-storey extension to the Lower School. In 2011 the College Masterplan identified that the Lower School and its associated buildings were in some need of updating. The library in particular was long past its sell-by date, and despite superficial internal tinkering, the Lower School buildings clearly needed a major overhaul. Two years ago funding became available to make the project, now with a wider scope, a reality. Planning permission was received from Southwark for a project that will now be delivered in two phases. Phase 1 is the replacement of the portacabin with a new three-storey Knowledge Hub on College Road which will provide library facilities, break-out spaces, ICT suites and a robotics suite. Phase 2 will commence in 2024/2025 after the completion of Phase 1. This part of the project will be more extensive and will deliver a new façade and circulation spaces, alongside upgraded classrooms and school offices, a Wellbeing Centre and an impressive foyer. The Junior School will get a new multi-use facility hall, allowing for the comfortable gathering of all 260 Junior School pupils in one place. After a rigorous tendering process, LIFE Build was appointed as the main contractor who, towards the end of the project, will work in collaboration with the College’s operational teams on the final fitting-out and preparation of the building. The architects chosen were alma-nac (co-founded by OA Tristan Wigfall, 90–00) in large part because of their proven – and award-winning – track record in

TRISTAN WIGFALL Architect On leaving the College I attended Sheffield University to complete my undergraduate degree in architecture. This provided the foundation for my journey into architecture and introduced me to the richness of the subject. While I embraced the challenge of architectural design, I also developed a keen interest in sustainability and the importance of user engagement and collaboration in the design process. On returning to London in 2004 I completed my first year in professional practice, working at the studio of the acclaimed architect Ted Cullinan (CBE). I subsequently gained a place at The Bartlett, UCL to study for my post-graduate diploma. This broadened my architectural experience, allowing me to explore architecture from a more theoretical viewpoint, which complemented my prior experience. While at UCL I was surrounded by many like-minded contemporaries and shared a design studio with two friends who would go on to become the fellow founding directors of alma-nac. After completing my studies at The Bartlett I gained valuable professional experience working for award-winning architectural practices, including a period working in San Francisco on a low energy Junior School building. In 2009, along with Caspar Rodgers and Chris Bryant, we took the leap and established alma-nac. We were keen to put our years of study and training into practice and to work collaboratively in creating innovative architectural projects. Our early works included award-winning residential designs, community projects and bespoke workspaces alongside research-based work. Looking ahead, the completion of the first phase of the new Junior and Lower School buildings for Dulwich College will demonstrate our capability in the delivery of net zero carbon education buildings. We want to continue to build on and share this knowledge and hope that the project will be an exemplar for other education projects.


Contemporary Campus


Historic Campus



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