Davenies school provides education for boys aged 4 to 13. Established in 1940, it now comprises a collection of Listed and modern buildings, set around historic formal gardens. Crucial to its success is the holistic approach to learning, based on engaging the children with nature and maximising their connection to the world around them.
In 2012 DSDHA were appointed to carry out the final phase of a 20-year masterplan to replace some of the most outdated blocks and provide ten classrooms for reception level through to Year 4, generous breakout spaces, external play areas, a new library and a hall, along with staff facilities.
The project involved the replacement of a 1980s building with a poor relationship to a listed building. The new contemporary design gives a sense of progression of scale, which mirrors the child’s journey through the school. The plan form nestles into the landscape, providing intimate external spaces that are light-filled and give a constant connection with the landscape. Different views and features have been framed and the classrooms are flooded with light. The section is utilised to provide classroom spaces with different atmospheres. All this provides a wonderful contemporary environment, in which each age group is able to take ownership of its own external space.
The change in materials references the old, breaks down the scale and mass of the new and helps the building to recede and the landscape to come forward.
The result is a robust and joyful building which is at the same time calming and nurturing.
A series of passive design measures, along with the use of a cross laminated timber structure, internally exposed in places, allowed this school to exceed the energy performance requirements of the building regulations, with the energy efficiency of the building and the associated services achieving a level of CO2 emissions that is 10% lower than the notional building. The use of external black ‘waney’ edged timber finish on the outside and its neutral timber-lined interiors shifts the focus from the building on the children’s pedagogical activities and their connection to the mature landscape outside.
Photography: Dennis Gilbert