Merchant Taylors' School

Location: London

Client: Merchant Taylor

Sector: Education

Cost: £5m

“Throughout the history of English architecture, there is a continuous thread running parallel with the historical styles but owing little or nothing to them. It might be called a timeless tradition of functionalism, (if the term had not become confused by being used to define a far more sophisticated phase of contemporary architecture). Its constituent elements are geometry unadorned and the forthright, spare and logical use of materials.”
Eric de Mare, 1950

The Merchant Taylors’ site is magnificent in its scale and design; it is also immaculately cared for. The main Grade II listed school buildings and the sports fields are clearly the jewels in the crown.

The new DT building provides the opportunity to add to the architectural heritage of the school. Our approach is to create a 21st century building of quality that attempts to fit in and stand out at the same time. Initial massing studies tested an approach that responded equally to the two principal geometries of the site:- the building line of the Avenue and the views of the lakes. After careful study of the requirements of the brief we concluded that building massing could be a simple rectangle orientated to the building line of the main avenue, continuing the line of the Art Block and mirroring the existing buildings to the west of the avenue.

The building is accommodated under a roof that directs north light into the building and supports south-facing solar panels that provide the building with renewable power.

All the materials workshops are located at ground level with the materials preparation space, materials stores, GRP modeling, CNC 3D printing and spray booth. All the spaces have been planned to accommodate space for a demonstration area, multi benches, clean tables for sketching and writing as well as place for IT workstations and student bags, coats and overalls. The central workshop also accommodates motor vehicle equipment with a covered external area offering additional flexibility. The entrance lobby is located adjacent to the staff room, providing easy passive supervision.Special 6th form study areas are located at first floor, both in the main space and in a more private study area. The Graphics, Electrical workshop, food tech and ICT teaching areas are also located at first floor level, along with the plant room, school store print room and assessment room.

All service distribution is located in accessible cable trays at high level feeding down to the spaces as required.

The design of the building is based around a “kit of parts” assembly construction methodology for both simplicity & speed of assembly. A solid, load-bearing, cross-laminated, timber panel system is used to form the floors & walls which will be built on strip foundations at ground level. The ground and first floor box will be capped off with a trussed north light roof assembly. This will be formed using a gang nailed, timber, “Warren” truss which will create the front edge of the north light and will span the large central open areas of the plan without need for columns. The trusses cantilever out over the floor plan at the front and rear elevation to form covered walkway areas and are supported by engineered timber columns at the outside edge. The solid timber panel system has been chosen both for its beauty and for its robust simplicity. Other than the application of a coat of fire retardant sealant, the panels are completely self-finish material and do not require the application of a finishing material.

Externally the panels will be clad with a rainscreen cladding panel system fixed over a build up of insulation breather membrane and cladding rails all applied to the external face of the panel. The window openings will be glazed with “Levolux”, or similar approved, thermally broken, double-glazed, casement window system, with a PPC capped external frame and timber casement inner. The main large glazed openings on the front and rear faces of the building will be infilled using “Seufert Niklaus” or similar approved, aluminium, pressure capped, thermally broken, and fully drained timber carrier frame, curtain walling system. The roof will be finished with a zinc standing seam roof system applied to a warm roof covering using mineral insulation batts applied to the cut roof elements formed in between the north lights. The back gutters will be formed by using a single ply EPDM membrane. The gutters will be drained using a syphonic drainage system. All external envelope elements will designed to exceed the requirements of current 2010 part L2. Internally the floors will be formed using high quality self finished wearing screeds which will contain the under floor heating system in all areas aside from the Heavy DT work shops where radiant heaters will be used.