Squire & Partners combines historical timber construction with modern technology at Design Technology Block, St James School

Squire and Partners’ approach to the Design and Technology block at St James’ School was to combine a historically referenced crafted timber construction with modern technology, and attempt to reconcile the two to create an authentic structure which will inspire the students, and serve the school for years to come.

Occupying an area within the St James School grounds previously home to an ad hoc collection of sheds and storage units, Squire and Partners’ new Design Technology block was designed to accommodate 20 students and two teaching staff as well as an office, plant and store room.

Taking inspiration from the craftsmanship and simple technology of timber-frame buildings in the southeast of England, the building envelope is clad in a black vertical weather-board and cover strip system, within which a concealed gutter and flush pyramidal roof-light ensures the purity of the building form is not compromised.

The traditional pegged mortise and tenon joints within the timber frame are counterpoised by steel hex-head fixings and sheets of birch-faced ply panels lining the walls, balancing tradition and modernity. The honesty of construction and robust interior provide a simple and practical backdrop for the workshop activities within.

Exposing the timber structure and employing traditional construction methods were an important part of the project, as it clearly displays to the students the beauty, longevity and practicality of timber as a building material.