Regent High School (formerly called South Camden Community School) is a co-educational secondary school on a tight urban site in Somers Town in the London Borough of Camden. Piecemeal development over the years had resulted in numerous disparate buildings, many of which were at the end of their life. The school suffered from various dark, enclosed, indirect circulation routes; teaching and learning spaces that were no longer fit for purpose; and a lack of good quality external spaces for students. As well as addressing these issues, the design needed to allow for an uplift of 488 students and 70 staff.
In 2009 Walters & Cohen was approached by Bam Construction, who carried out the project under a BSF Design and Build contract for London Borough of Camden. Working closely with Bam, the council and the school, we developed a scheme for demolition, refurbishment and new build over four construction phases.
The design supports a wide variety of teaching and learning methods to suit the school’s educational vision for up to 1,300 students. Traditional classrooms are grouped around flexible homebases, encouraging interactive, personal and collaborative working.
At the heart of the school is the Arcade, a triple height circulation space linking new and existing elements of the campus. The Arcade is the main focus of the school and provides the new main entrance. ‘Flipping’ the entrance from Charrington Street to Chalton Street is one of the major achievements of the design, which effectively reorientates how the school relates to its surroundings and how staff, students and visitors approach the school.
The school’s footprint has been kept to a minimum, with external space maximised to accommodate a variety of outdoor teaching and social spaces. The school’s specialism of the creative arts is promoted with a state-of-the-art theatre, which helps regenerate the north end of Chalton Street.
The design follows area guidelines set out in Building Bulletin 98, adheres to requirements set out by the local authority, and complies with all requirements for accessibility. The building is much more ‘legible’ than before, and is easy for all users to navigate, with lifts, level thresholds, co-located disabled toilets and generous circulation spaces. All requirements regarding provision for users with hearing and visual impairments have been met and the theatre has an induction loop system.
Headteacher Rosemary Leeke has been involved throughout and said:
“The entrance and Arcade space are so impressive. But the benefits of the design go far beyond the ‘wow’ factor: the Arcade simplifies movement around a large school; it is an attractive link between the original and new buildings; and the passive supervision it provides supports our school ethos of students taking responsibility for their learning and behaviour.”