This magnificent gabled structure serves as an activities center and crèche for the Wilberforce Primary School in Westminster, London. But it used to be nothing more than a dimly lit portakabin. Designed by Jonathan Tuckey Design, the timber-lined gatehouse features three skylights that provide both abundant natural daylight and ventilation. Best of all, the building was put together on a limited budget, which just goes to show – great design doesn’t have to be expensive.
To keep the costs as low as possible, project architect Nic Howett also took on the roles of quantity surveyor and project manager. The only other people employed on the project were a small team of engineers, and a local builder, which kept outside interference to an absolute minimum. “The project was coordinated by ourselves, proving that good education buildings can be built for little money without the need for bureaucratic processes, framework agreements and multiple consultants,” Howett told Dezeen.
A simple timber frame lies at the core of the gatehouse, which has been encased in corrugated fiber cement panels. Inside the building, a continuous plywood surface was used for the walls and ceilings to create a clean and simple interior that doesn’t allude to how much it cost to build. In addition to the three skylights that provide light and ventilation, there is a fully glazed, and sliding wall that opens out onto a narrow playground.
Many of the materials used in the gatehouse’s construction meet sustainability standards. The plywood is FSC and PEFC certified, while the exterior panels achieve an A+ rating in the BRE Green Guide. Forbo Marmoleum flooring, which has a Cradle-to-Cradle silver certificate, was also used throughout the building.
Architects will now move on to plans for a new entrance building and community center. Not only is the building beautiful, but the design and construction process was headache-free, which will hopefully serve as an example for other schools that want to upgrade their facilities in the future.
Images by Dirk Lindner