School of Art and Design, Somerset College

Taunton, Somerset
Very Good

Breathing life back into the School of Art and Design at Somerset College

The £12m regeneration of the School of Art and Design was a significant project for Somerset College, which included a major refurbishment of the existing 6000m2 building and a new extension to provide specialist art studios and flexible work rooms.

Although the existing building was structurally sound, it suffered from severe dilapidation in areas and was affected by poor alterations in its 41 year history. We were faced with the challenge of reinventing the building itself whilst bearing in mind its effect on the campus.

We wanted to enhance the robust original design and celebrate the quality of its unadorned structure. The only elements we physically altered were areas upgraded due to poor existing performance. These included an ugly 1980’s lift shaft and failing rooflights, which became celebrated features by the addition of the ‘Gold’ Tecu cladding, expressly distinguishing between the original and the altered.

The new build extension took cues from the original building in terms of exposing the structure, but in contrast it holds a glulam frame.

A fundamental strategy in the proposal was to create a clarity of circulation and movement throughout the ground and first floors. To achieve this, we repositioned the main entrance so that the building integrates positively with the public approach and campus, whilst the previous ‘warren-like’ wings have been replaced by modern flexible spaces to help with both the circulation and envelope performance.

The building has been thermally upgraded and utilises natural ventilation, brise soleil and night cooling through its thermal mass to control the environment.

The project has been shortlisted for both the 2017 RIBA South West awards and the RICS South West (Building Conservation) awards.