Walderslade Primary School

Popular 100 year-old primary school known locally as ‘the hutted school’, consisting of a hall and a collection of modular units, huts and sheds on the side of a hill.  

The project for a new build 1 FE replacement school building faced a number of stiff technical challenges: 

  • A steep, narrow and restricted site surrounded by a close-built residential estate, with little room for manoeuvre
  • The school would not leave the site during the build 
  • A narrow single access point for both school and construction traffic
  • Insufficient play area

Out of these challenges we developed a detailed strategy and design around a programme of phased demolition, enabling works, temporary classrooms, and main construction works. The school decanted into temporary buildings squeezed cheek by jowl with the construction site, separated only by an acoustic fence. 

An 80 metre long contiguous bored pile retaining wall cuts into the chalk, so a compact two-storey single-aspect structure can be built into the hill. 

A grassed and rubber-crumbed rooftop play area makes up the shortfall. The north elevation forms a brick cliff face. Classrooms set behind this cliff face benefit from light from large north-facing windows and generous views across the valley. 

Internally, floors are gently stepped and imperceptibly sloped to fit within the contours of the hill, reducing its impact on neighbours.  

Large areas of rooflight and lightwell with an acoustically attenuated passive-stack ventilation system bring natural light and fresh air deep into the building. 

Rooftop photovoltaic panels reduce the carbon footprint by 23%. 

The project won a Kent Design & Development Award and a retrospective Medway award for best school building completed in the last decade.