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HI-MACS® proves practical and playful in a new library refurbishment at a private London prep school

The ability to blend fun with function was one of the main criteria when it came to Hugh Broughton Architects and the recent refurbishment of the library at Thomas’s London Day School in southwest London. HI-MACS® was integral to the new design, helping the architects achieve their overall aim.

This family-run private prep school based in Clapham was in need of an inspiring new library for the children to enjoy; a space that would capture the imagination of children, teachers and parents alike. The light-filled room features pops of bold colour, bespoke soft furnishings and a range of reading zones to nurture and stimulate young minds.

The librarian’s desk, which is made from HI-MACS®, has a frame that holds a staggering 875 books. HI-MACS® is a popular choice when architects and designers are specifying public areas as it’s extremely hygienic, easy to clean and can be seamlessly joined so there is nowhere for dirt and germs to hide – perfect for an environment filled daily with hundreds of children. Additional attributes of this flexible material are that it can be thermoformed to create curves and is easy to maintain and repair if necessary.

The revamped interior has transformed a dark, dreary space that was cluttered with desks, chairs and random pieces of furniture into a bold, colourful environment that brings character and joy back into learning. The design evolved from discussions with teachers and pupils at an early stage of the design process. The brief was to create a state-of-the-art, light-filled contemporary children’s library with inherent flexibility to respond to the needs of both current and future staff and pupils.

Situated on the ground floor of the school’s Grade II listed Victorian building, the new library comprises white walls, white vaulted ceilings and new contemporary downlights. One of its focal points is a map of Narnia, the fictitious land from CS Lewis’s classic novel, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which is beautifully illustrated across the full width of the white resin floor.

Additional design features include a cosy royal blue alcove with curved steps, perfect for reading and storytelling, and oversized circular upholstered seats in fuchsia pink and royal blue. Low-level mobile units encourage pupils to rummage through the extensive collection of books, while quotes above the bookshelves provide inspiration and direct young readers towards classic authors.

Window reveals were clad with joinery incorporating bookcases while a freeflowing, organic seating feature forms a series of overscaled perches for children to sit and read beneath the natural light flooding in from the south.

Phil Ward, Headmaster of Thomas’s London Day School, says, “The transformation of what was easily the bleakest and most pessimistic area in our school to one which draws the children towards it at every opportunity is astonishing. Hugh and his team have given us a fabulous and deeply impressive facility, and a library which blends the best of a traditional library with digital technologies and an aura of the magical, which fits perfectly with our commitment to providing the children in our school with an exciting and stimulating C21 learning environment. We are thrilled and enormously grateful.

Hugh Broughton of Hugh Broughton Architects adds, “The new library reflects the progressive approach to education, which is a key feature of Thomas’s. It was a real joy to work with the client team on this project; they were so enthusiastic and encouraging from start to finish. The resultant space – bright, white and animated with numerous elements of fun – is a testament to their commitment to delivering the best learning environments for their pupils.

Information & images by courtesy of HI-MACS®

Photography: © Carlos Dominguez Photography

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