Located in the heart of Camden, north-west London this building was positioned on a wedge shaped, infill site that had been created as a result of bomb damage during WWII. At the time of construction it was being used by the School as their only car parking facility. It was a brave move by the School to impose on their staff and parents a ‘no parking’ site but the proximity of the School to Camden Town tube station and Camden Road rail station justified their decision.
The site is just 32 metres deep and tapers from 11 metres wide at the front facing onto Inverness Street to 19 metres at the rear where the School’s main reception is also located. Direct access to the reception is only accessible from Inverness Street. BHM Architects faced a number of challenges as a direct result of this small and confined site.
Firstly was the extent of the brief which required four general teaching classrooms as well as specialist music teaching spaces, offices, a meeting room, ancillary and support spaces including storage and a school theatre to seat 200 people. All this needed to be arranged in a manner that maintaining a direct external route to the school reception and one blue badge parking space.
Secondly, the location of the site meant a large number of neighbouring properties with a variety of uses had to be placated during but the design and construction processes. These included party wall agreements with a privately own Georgian townhouse, a probation centre with escape access via the car park, an electrical substation and an office development. There were also a wider number of consultees in the planning process including a block of flats, further privately owned period properties, numerous bars and restaurants and a bingo hall. BHM's design needed to complement the surrounding built environment and satisfy their occupants needs without compromising the School's security.
The third major issue was how to construct a building which was three storeys on the front classroom block but only one and a half for the theatre behind and with access only available from one side.
All of these challenges led to very close relationships and detailed negotiations between BHM, the planning authority, the neighbours - and their party wall advisors - and of course the contractor.