A magnificent cathedral-like refectory
London and Rotterdam-based architects and urbanists, Maccreanor Lavington, were appointed to design a new refectory for Ibstock Place School, an independent co-educational day school for pupils aged 4-18, after winning an invited competition in 2016. The architect’s response to the brief recognised the importance of lunchtimes in supporting the emotional and social development of pupils, and sought to create a building that was uplifting and celebratory. The design committed to creating a calm, quiet and, critically, enjoyable space, allowing hundreds of pupils to dine simultaneously whilst being able to have a conversation with those immediately next to them.
Between the striking glue-laminated lattice structure of the vaulted panels, acoustic panelling in American white oak has been fitted to absorb and soften the background clatter of dining. The restrained palette of timber is accented by flourishes of bronze - handrails, door handles and light fittings - which lend a permanence and tactile richness to the space.
The building embraces and enhances its beautiful landscaped setting, retaining a backdrop of mature London Plane trees. The expressive glulam structure compliments the adjacent trees, however its choice was performance-driven. As the school remained operational throughout the build, it was important to use a structure which could be prefabricated and assembled with minimal noise and disruption. Structural timber components were factory-finished, then installed on site by a team of just three - father, mother and son.
The form of the building is cleverly designed to minimise energy demand, by moderating the internal environment of the halls without air conditioning. The cloister to the west elevation acts as a practical rain cover for pupils queuing for lunch and additionally shades the interiors from afternoon sun, preventing summertime overheating. The roof lanterns form a chimney to draw hot, stale air out of the building through high level louvre windows and allow natural light to flood the spaces below.
The scheme achieved planning within a year and was delivered through traditional procurement for occupation in December 2019. Floorspace has been trebled on the footprint of the former buildings by adding basement and mezzanine levels and maximising usable, column-free space. Three linked volumes house a hall, servery and kitchen. The versatile hall seats up to 500 pupils and staff at a time. Hidden away above the commercial kitchens, a sixth-form study room overlooks Richmond Park.
Photography by Jack Hobhouse