Multi award-winning project uses Tudor’s handmade clay roof tiles
King’s College School in Wimbledon, one of the leading academic independent schools in the UK, has won a prestigious 2019 RIBA National Award and a RIBA London Award for the design of its impressive new Music School.
Designed by Hopkins Architects, the state-of-the-art Music School was part of an ongoing development masterplan to improve its facilities, consolidating the music teaching, practice and performance spaces at the entrance to the School campus.
The iconic design features three distinct elements arranged over three floors and linked by an L-shaped foyer. At the centre of the campus is the imposing triple height 200-seater auditorium with a stage for a 70-piece orchestra, with a second lower volume housing music teaching rooms and a large rehearsal space, then a third volume for practice rooms and offices.
Founded in 1829, the school is set in a Conservation Area, and so a sympathetic design was required, which would reference its surroundings using a palette of traditional materials in an innovative and modern way.
Picking up on the school’s context and in particular the Grade II Listed Great Hall, the external walls were constructed from handmade brick and the roofs from complementary handmade clay roof tiles set in a pattern, which expressed the triangulated structure of the Concert Hall and Rehearsal Room.
This stunning geometric pattern, which reflected the geometry of the exposed glulam diagrid structure beneath, was created solely from the distinctive shapes of the bespoke roof tiles, whilst the adjacent linear block had a different but complementary roof form constructed from matching classical plain clay tiles.
The challenge of delivering this complex design required a high degree of skill and close collaboration between architect and manufacturer to create reality from concept.
Bespoke handmade clay tiles
Hopkins Architects specified new handmade clay rooftiles, rather than machine made tiles, as they have a natural character and subtle variation of tone and texture, which would blend well with the architectural context in a Conservation Area.
The handmaking process is also considerably more flexible than the manufacture of machine-made tiles, therefore lending itself better to the precise and bespoke nature of their design.
The non-standard shapes and sizes of roof tiles were all made by hand, with unusually elongated arrowhead tiles made to a size of 400mm long and 100mm wide. This is 150% longer and 40% less width than standard rooftiles and with a curvature which was within very small tolerances.
No less than six different designs of bespoke tiles were created, each in two colour-ways to avoid a uniform appearance. Mock up sample panels were constructed to assess the various combinations of colours, with of 30% red and 70% brown tiles chosen as the final mix.
Bespoke hip tiles were also specially created with meticulous attention to detail from the architect’s hand drawn three-D diagram, with dry clay prototypes being presented to the roof so that slight adjustments could be made to achieve the exact size and shape.
Roof Tile manufacture
Manufactured from Etruria Marl, which is a very dense high-quality clay, the roof tiles were made using traditional handmade techniques to create an ‘instant aged’ and time weathered appearance.
Each tile was carefully hand-pressed, moulded and trimmed and then strengthened using advanced firing techniques, in order to give exceptional durability to modern performance standards.
With a total of over 90,000 roof tiles and specials being made to order, it was important that modern performance standards and assurance of longevity were also be backed by Tudor’s 30-year guarantee.
An iconic building
This collaboration between architect and manufacturer has resulted in an inspirational Music School, with an instantly recognisable and complex roofscape, which reflects the highest levels of musical excellence offered at one of the leading independent academic schools in the UK.
“The school is delighted with the appearance of the roof tiles, which look even better than we had expected. They finish off this spectacular building brilliantly,” said Anne Bartlett, Estate Bursar, King’s College School Wimbledon.
King’s College Music School was also winner of the 2018 Pitched Roofing Awards in the category of ‘Commercial property application using roof tiles’ and was also shortlisted in the inaugural 2019 AJ Specification Awards, which recognises quality of materials, innovation and collaboration between architects, suppliers and manufacturers.
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