The Schools at Somerhill - New Music School

School expansion programme delivering a new music school building, and the extension and refurbishment of the existing science laboratories, with a combined budget of £1.5m.

Photos courtesy of Clague LLP

The Schools at Somerhill is a hugely successful combined pre-prep nursery with girls’ and boys’ preparatory schools located in a magnificent estate grouped around a Grade I listed Jacobean mansion near Tonbridge in Kent.

I led the team from being shortlisted to selection by theGovernors and senior management for a number of projects including the new music school. This was part of the school’s consolidation programme as the number one feeder school for private schools in Kent and beyond.  This was the second music school in which I had been involved (the other being for Kings School, Canterbury). 

We carried out a feasibility study investigating two sites around the historic mansion.  The site closest to the school was favoured for efficiency reasons but this site overlooked Tonbridge and was prominent in the landscape and the setting of the mansion.  Not surprisingly, gaining planning permission required effort and flexibility in the design to reduce the impact to the bare minimum.

The brief was to provide two performance/rehearsal rooms for small groups as well as individual practice rooms all to be acoustically independent and each having its own character and associated outside space.

I led the design to create an exceptional space in the main practice rooms to produce an oak-trussed roof with tensile steel members where possible to give lightness to the roof. This was combined with a full lighting scheme to create inspirational spaces with good acoustic performance.  The external materials were chosen to compliment the mansion.

We worked with CTA (structural engineers), Synergy (quantity surveyors) and the scheme was built by Messrs Baxalls at a cost of approx.£1.5m.

In working closely with the Bursar, the works were carefully planned and to be undertaken mainly in the summer vacation.  Altogether we made a great team and the programme and budget were achieved.  

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