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HUB Architects and Designers Ltd - The Wells Centre and Sixth Form Pavilion, Aldenham School

HUB Architects and Designers Ltd

A new 730m2 Sixth Form and Music Block featuring a simple oak frame for Aldenham School in Hertfordshire, shortlisted for the Schüco Excellence Award for Design and Innovation.

The Wells Centre, Aldenham School

The Wells Centre, Aldenham School 

The Wells Centre, Aldenham School

The Wells Centre, Aldenham School 

The Wells Centre, Aldenham School

The Wells Centre, Aldenham School 

The Wells Centre, Aldenham School

The Wells Centre, Aldenham School 

In a closed competition of selected practices Hub won the opportunity to design a new Sixth Form and Music block for Aldenham School.

The site occupies a small pocket of land within a Green Belt zone for which planning permission could be obtained. The scheme provides teaching and gathering spaces within a sensitive form that acknowledges the history and aesthetic of the existing school buildings.

The scheme arose from the Schools need for additional space to meet the demands of growing student numbers and to offer a better educational facility. The brief listed the requirements for a multiplicity of use specific spaces that had to be condensed appropriately into the site parameters while also maintaining a sense of place and belonging.

The new infill buildings are set between the existing Chapel and Pavilion buildings form the Music Block, function spaces and psychology classroom. The refurbishment and reconfiguration of the Pavilion building forms the basis for the Sixth Form centre where social activities and teaching occur. As the proposed site is within a Green Belt zone careful design considerations were essential at the early stages of the project together with the views of local planners.

A distinctive modular rhythm of bays and columns found in the Pavilion are repeated in the new architectural language of The Wells Centre. An intentional void has been allowed between the new infill buildings and the existing Pavilion. This is achieved by a low glazed link. The purpose of this area is to provide breathing space between buildings, forming a punctuation between new and old, while the transparency of the glazing permits views. The design of the Wells Centre is a simple oak frame that forms the basic structure and aesthetic, while also incorporating a series of simple pitched roofs with ridgeline glazing on the higher of the two blocks to allow for plenty of natural light into the building.

Photovoltaic glazing systems were incorporated into the early stages of the design, as the photovoltaic output was critical to obtaining a balance for the new buildings performance in general. These are functional as well as aesthetic, i.e. as an energy source, to provide solar shading and to add an aesthetic quality to the glazing and space. This is apparent on the ridge glazing and gable end glazing of the taller of the new infill buildings.

Although playful in mass and scale the new buildings do not intend to upstage the existing Chapel or Pavilion buildings. Newly formed entrances remain clear yet discreet externally and do not override those of the existing. In order to respect the 'identity' and scale of the Pavilion, the junction between this building and the new Block is broken on the North East elevation by means of a glazed link while the structural glazed link alongside the Chapel maintains the views & memories of the original gable of the music school when viewed from the exterior.
Close attention to the detailing of the glazing systems was key as these had to be carefully considered so that the interfaces between glazing systems, the structural green oak frame and the interface between new glazing and existing fabric worked to form a unified building system.

The intention of the proposal is to add to the rich contextual timeline that currently existing between the Chapel building and the Pavilion building. Our proposal seeks to continue this architectural timeline by becoming a building of its time; it presents Aldenham School with a marker that signifies the school's transition into the 21st century.

In 2015, the Aldenham project was shortlisted for the Schüco Excellence Award for Design & Innovation in association with the RIBA Journal.