Going Underground

– September 20th, 2013

The Emma Thornton Building has opened to praise from the parents & staff of Finton House School for its generous, light-filled spaces.

The building was created in response to the desperate need for extra space within a tight urban site in south London.  It was clear that any further building above ground would result in an overdeveloped site and loss of valuable playground space.  The solution was to create a new building with 85% of the structure below ground level.  The modest new building and the glass-lined stairwell is the only outward indication of the large spaces created underground, providing an additional 400sqm of floor area, accommodating specialist teachings spaces for Design & Technology, Science and Music, including bespoke music “pods”.

The key to the success of this building below ground was to create an illusion of being at ground level.  The light-filled stairwell is lined on all sides with frameless glass with a bespoke digital design inspired by the surrounding Lime trees.  Every panel of the glass is unique; opaque in areas where it conceals the building structure and transparent where it is needed to allow light in and views out of the teaching spaces.  With the glass extending from floor to ceiling, it also reflects direct sunlight into the teaching spaces, increasing the intensity of natural light and further enhancing the illusion of being at ground level amongst the trees.