The renovation of Stowe Art School forms the third phase of Rick Mather Architects' strategic masterplan for the academic and boarding areas at Stowe School, Buckingham The decision to update the building arose from the growing demand for art at Stowe and the need to accommodate the current school's art and design facilities in one place. Designed in 1935 by the Scottish-born, Oxford-based architect Ronald Fielding Dodd (cl890-1958), the art block represented a departure from the classical language of most buildings at Stowe. The building was in poor condition and a series of low-grade alterations and extensions had been added over the years.
The £1.6m scheme tightens the circulation areas and provides three levels of studio and teaching accommodation, and reinstates the original double height studio. Extensive restoration of the east elevation was required, following the demolition of a 1960s extension. The flanking roofs were removed, lowering the height of the second-floor extensions in relation to the main roof. This allowed a new open space to be located at the heart of the academic quarter. Zinc cladding was specified for the roof extensions, continuing a material dialogue with the adjacent new boarding houses.
The existing Crittall windows were replaced with new double glazed, electrically-operated units (also by Crittall). The ground floor contains communal facilities, including a library, offices, a textile studio,
lCT space, and technician's room, all accessed via a central corridor. Located on the south side of the plan adjacent to the external wall is a single central core providing vertical circulation.
A large exhibition and gallery space, which can be accessed separately from the rest of the building, leads to a new terrace and garden quad. Organised around tile reinstated double-height studio on the upper two floors are the main teaching spaces. The first floor provides flexible open plan classrooms. Printmaking and darkroom facilities are located on the south side, allowing north light into the studio space. Positioned at both ends of the double-height void and connected by a gallery, the second floor accommodates individual top-lit studios.
Full-height concealed pocket doors maintain long sightlines through the building. Natural light is brought in from above and complemented by large light boxes to maximise the display areas. Plywood backed display walls and ceilings, which can accommodate constant changes of use without causing long-term damage, helped allay the client's concerns about future maintenance costs. Heavy duty flooring was used throughout, with linoleum on the staircase, and resin screed and herringbone oak parquet - matching the original specification - in the studios and gallery.