West Buckland School

August 18, 2012

An Art and Design Building by Rundell Associates has just been completed at West Buckland School in Devon.

Information from the arrchitect:

The building is positioned at the forefront of the West Buckland School campus, providing an architectural link between the existing School House (Karslake Hall) to the East and the Preparatory School and boarding houses to the West.

On arrival at the school the new building presents visitors with a bold modern extension to the impressive Victorian elevation of the existing schoolhouse, unifying the overall appearance of the campus from the South. The development also reinforces the key East West axis that connects the prep school to upper school, placing Art and Design at the heart of the West Buckland Campus.

The building consists of two offset blocks connected via a glazed link bridge at first floor level. The Northern block, houses the Theatre facilities, toilets and plant room, whilst the Southern block houses the Art, DT and Prep School teaching spaces. The offset blocks, along with the West elevation of Karslake Hall, enclose a new communal courtyard at the South East corner of the site that creates a focal point for the development.

The Courtyard provides access to the main entrances into the Art department and the Theatre block as well as providing a communal external space for students to congregate in during breaks and outside of school hours. The main entrance steps into the Art department from the courtyard double as tiered seating, offering students a sheltered place to meet and sit outside, as well as opening up the possibility of staging outdoor theatre performances and concerts.

The two blocks are bisected by a central circulation route, which provides a direct pedestrian connection between Karslake Hall and the Prep School. With long views through the site, this route also aids visitor’s orientation on arrival at the School. The building is intended to function as a showcase for the student’s work and as such the building is heavily glazed along the key external circulation routes, ensuring that the art display walls are visible both inside and outside of the building.

The circulation spine is complemented by two secondary routes across the site; the covered colonnade along the South of the Teaching block, which provides a sheltered route for students to cross the site when the weather is bad and the existing roadway to the North. The building has a solid timber structural frame and is clad with untreated larch boards and locally sourced natural stone. The timber frame consists of cross-laminated softwood panels and glulam beams that were prefabricated in Austria and then erected on site. The structural timber frame is exposed in the main teaching spaces, lending the rooms a natural warmth and integrity.

The Larch cladding offers relatively high durability for a softwood and will weather to a silver grey similar to that of the stone work of Karslake Hall. The board on board cladding arrangement was selected for its simplicity, robustness and its evocation of local vernacular farm buildings. The use of the natural stone at ground floor level along the Southern elevation helps visually ground the building and provides a clear material connection with Karslake Hall.

West Buckland School by MRJ Rundell & Associates


The Design & Technology department occupies the majority of the ground floor of the Southern teaching block and is accessed via double entrance doors along the North elevation. There are two large student workshops with facilities for working with metal, timber and plastics. Adjacent to the student workshops are the DT staff office and the Technician’s store, which accommodates material storage and the higher risk machinery. In addition to the workshop facilities there is a PC suite with state of the art CAD/CAM facilities, including a laser cutter, a CNC lathe and a 3D printer.

Natural cross ventilation is provided by automatic high-level casements operated by actuators on both North and South elevations. The full height glazing in each workshop also incorporates a sliding door, which provides access to the covered walkway and additional natural ventilation when required. All of the DT workshops incorporate an integrated dust extract system.

Art Department

Access to the Art department is via the external stairs at the East and West ends of the Southern teaching block as well as via the high level link bridge which can be accessed from the lift and internal staircase within the Theatre block. The Art department comprises; two large art studios, dedicated sixth form studio, print workshop, darkroom, kiln store and staff office. Out of hours working is available to the sixth form students who can access their studio space via code locks on the entrance door and studio door at the West end of the building.

All of the studio spaces have full height glazing along the Southern elevation and roof lights at high level, which allow large amounts of natural light into the teaching spaces. The positioning of the roof lights deep within the plan ensures that the natural light levels are even throughout the studios, providing ideal conditions for the production of artwork. The use of roof lights has freed up a large amount of wall space for the displaying of students work.

Natural cross ventilation is provided by automatic dampers within the floor and roof light up-stands; cool air is drawn in through floor vents along the Southern edge of the building and stale waste air is exhausted through the roof light vents at the Northern end of the rooms via the stack effect. The full height glazing along the Southern wall of each art studio also incorporates a full height sliding door which can be used to provide additional natural ventilation. Vertical larch louvres over the opening section of the door provide protection against falling as well as reducing glare from the sun.

Circulation through the art department is provided by a single long corridor, which runs the length of the building. The corridor functions as a permanent gallery space for students work as well as work from outside artists. The corridor has full height glazing along its entire length, which allows the art work being displayed to be seen from outside as well as inside the building.


The Theatre and associated spaces are housed in the block at the North of the site. The block contains the theatre space with a technical balcony, a backstage area, a green room and costume and prop stores. The block also contains; the main internal stair, platform lift, the toilet facilities at first floor level and the plant room in the basement. The main entrance is from the courtyard through two double doors and there is a secondary entrance below the link bridge, half a level lower.

The theatre offers excellent technical facilities with a high quality audio and lighting system and retractable seating for 120 people.The Theatre space has been designed in close consultation with the acoustic engineer to ensure that the space offers good acoustics for the wide range of activities that the school intend to use the space for, ranging from lectures, film screenings and assemblies to theatrical performances, dance and drama lessons. Due to the acoustic requirements, the ventilation to the theatre is by mechanical means. Low level air diffusers supply fresh air at low velocity via insulated trenches in the ground bearing slab, the waste air is then drawn out of the space at high level on the Eastern wall.

Environmental Strategy

A Building Management System or BMS is installed in the new building, which controls, monitors and records all aspects of the buildings energy use. The BMS ensures that the building is always running at optimal efficiency, maximising the use of the passive systems and making sure that energy use is kept to a minimum.

The building is heated by an under floor heating system supplied by the Biomass boiler and all of the main teaching spaces are naturally cross-ventilated taking advantage of a passive stack effect. The theatre space is mechanically ventilated and heat exchangers have been included in the system to improve its overall efficiency. The BMS is programmed to automatically take advantage of night time cooling when it is required in the summer months.

The levels of natural daylight in the building are very high due to the extensive amount of perimeter glazing incorporated into the design. High performance glazing has been specified on all South facing windows in order to reduce unwanted solar gains and internal roller blinds have been installed so that the occupants can actively address any problems relating to glare. A roof top sunlight sensor modulates the internal fluorescent lighting levels to maintain the required luminance levels for each room whilst minimising energy use.

Occupancy sensors in the teaching spaces also ensure that lights are not left on in rooms that are not being used. The building has been designed to have a high degree of airtightness. On completion of the air test the building achieved a reading of 3.18 m3(m2/h) at 50 Pa. This low permeability will ensure that energy loss through draft etc will be minimised.

In addition to the renewable energy generated by the Biomass boiler, the building also incorporates an array of Photovoltaic panels on the Theatre roof. The generated electricity can be used to power the building or sold back to the grid. All of the energy generated and used by the building is monitored by the BMS and outputted to a website allowing the school to track energy use and potentially use the building as a teaching resource.

Architect : Rundell Associates

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