The refurbishment of a 1960s college refectory within a Grade II listed complex. The scheme converted a cramped and poorly lit extension into a spacious dining hall, establishing the space as the social heart of the College.
The project was part of the Sorrell Foundation’s JoinedUpDesignforSchools, an initiative to demonstrate to children how good design can improve the quality of life in their schools. As client, the students had a unique perspective on what really works.
By re-orientating the circulation and establishing a new entrance foyer, we released spaces around the perimeter for new uses with improved views out to the grounds beyond.
The improvement in the environment and menu has seen a dramatic increase in the number of students opting to take school meals. It is now a popular space, functioning as a busy canteen at meal times and a relaxed study space and venue for functions at other times.
Central to this projects success was good consultation. The engagement with the pupils of the school was key to identifying the areas in most need of improvement.
In our initial consultation stage a student survey revealed that 90% of pupils were unhappy with their dining environment. The principal causes for concern were the lack of space, natural light and poor ventilation as well as problems with circulation which resulted in a backlog of students queuing at the entrance and adjacent yard at mealtimes. Areas around the perimeter of the refectory building had, over time, been colonized as additional teaching space, whilst the back-of-house service and kitchen areas were inefficiently planned.
The refurbishment has been informed by our experience in the hospitality sector where the arrival is a critical aspect of the overall experience. New steel beams have been inserted to open up the refectory building creating a brighter more civilised dining hall and a new glazed entrance pavilion has been added to mark the arrival to the refectory and manage the flow of pupils into and out of the dining hall.
A new servery reclaims the under-utilised back-of-house areas and some of the original kitchen. By removing partitions the new servery provides a generous area for ‘food theatre’. A continuous ‘solid surface’ counter meanders through the servery, defining the different food dispense locations whilst a beech plywood-clad wall provides the separation between the servery and the dining area.
Peripheral teaching spaces have been relocated to other parts of the college campus and the dining hall now fills the refectory building. The elevation has been transformed; new full-height double-glazed windows replace the original smaller window, maximising daylight into the dining hall whilst opening up views out to the picturesque college campus. Large double glazed sliding doors provide direct access onto the school gardens, facilitating a seamless transition indoor and outdoor for al fresco dining in the summer.
High-level electrically operated clerestory windows have been installed between existing glu-laminated beams (in place of solid infill partitions) to bring further daylight into the space, and to allow natural ventilation.
An existing commercial dishwasher unit is now concealed in a blue glass envelope, which separates the entrance and exit routes. A student gallery space forms the exit route for diners.
High quality aspects of the original 1960s extension have been retained and restored such as the hardwood parquet floor and the large-span glu-laminated beams, enhanced by a subtly varying colour palette selected by the student design team. Large new pendant lights form a feature in the main dining space, and offer both direct and indirect lighting, with a variety of settings conducive to dining at all times of the day and evening events out of school hours.