Berkhamsted 6th form Aerial illustration

Berkhamsted Sixth Form Centre

Berkhamsted Schools Group

Innovative teaching, learning and social spaces, designed to equip students with the skills and confidence to succeed

The new Sixth Form Centre building and associated landscaping on the Castle Campus for Berkhamsted School have received planning permission from Dacorum Borough Council.

The Sixth Form is one of three projects that represent Phase 1 of a campus masterplan completed by the practice. A new Estates Hub Building is also currently under construction. While the recently completed interior renovation of Dean’s Hall, an existing early 20th-century building, has created a state-of-the-art multi-purpose building for lectures and events that is now in full use.

In 2017, we were commissioned as estate-wide masterplanners for Berkhamsted School. A family of leading independent schools based across multiple sites across Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire, providing high-quality education and care for boys and girls aged 5 months to 18 years. There are six schools that combine both single-sex and co-educational teaching in a ‘diamond pattern’. Here the youngest boys and girls are taught together, then separated between the ages of 11 and 16, before coming back together in a joint co-educational Sixth Form.

Construction is anticipated to start onsite in late 2021, with targeted completion in the Summer of 2023.

The Brief

Design Team

project manager:

structural engineer:
Heyne Tillett Steel

quantity surveyor:
Jackson Coles

acoustic consultant:
Sustainable Acoustics

landscape consultant:
Land Use Consultants

planning consultant:

One of the key drivers for the School to secure a sustainable future is the need to create a modernised and consolidated Sixth Form that will provide students with a solid foundation in preparation for university life and their future careers.

The Masterplan indicated that Lower School students and Upper Sixth, currently housed separately, have the opportunity to be brought together in one facility, with the site for a new Sixth Form Centre located on a key part of the existing Castle campus. This location is significant in the context of both the school’s listed buildings and the public realm at the heart of Berkhamsted town centre.

The proposed building offers the opportunity to remove a number of existing poor quality buildings and enhance the surrounding area with a high quality, contemporary architectural design.

Design Approach

This project represents an immensely important forward step for the Berkhamsted Schools Group and will provide a Sixth Form Centre that will equip its students with the skills and confidences that excel in the context of a fast-changing world.Rod Graham, Design Engine Founding Director

The new building will create a significant and valuable modern academic and pastoral space which will also serve to release other similar spaces within the Senior School. The accommodation, spread over three floors, will accommodate 400 students.

On the ground floor, a social learning café provides a vibrant space on arrival and opens onto a new landscaped wildflower meadow quad for sixth form students and staff to enjoy. An open-plan study space for private and individual classrooms are arranged on an opposing wing, offering a blend of private independent study and timetabled classes.

A similar arrangement of teaching space and study commons is found on the first floor, with the addition of an innovative west wing where retractable walls and screens can transform classrooms to transform into a larger open space for exams. There is also a separate open incubator workspace called the Your Futures Zone, where graduates can set up their own businesses while students gain day-to-day inspiration and insight into the world of work.

The building rises to three storeys at the corner of the site to provide further individual teaching spaces and 1-2-1 meeting rooms for pastoral care. The taller facades also serve to appropriately address the urban context by creating a strong focal point at the end of a long vista along Mill Street, while also echoing the surrounding buildings that similarly “turn the corner” and provide additional presence with an additional floor.

Materials and Sustainability

The proposal adopts a facetted brick gabled form on the public-facing elevations, to reflect and reinterpret the pitched forms of the adjacent campus buildings. Each individual pitched roof represents a single classroom, which itself benefits internally from a vaulted cross-laminated timber ceiling. The pitched roofline is also applied to the three-storey component, defining the main entrance through a glazed section leading to a triple-height void and a feature staircase.

The internal school-facing elevations are characterised by a double-height colonnade of precast concrete that mirrors the exposed concrete frame within. This component provides shade for the south and west facing rooms and shelter from the elements for the outdoor activities around the meadow garden.

The roof above is covered with a living green and blue roof to provide rainwater mitigation. Above this are photovoltaic panels which, together with the solar shading, the air-source heat pumps, the use of cross-laminated timber and the thermal mass of the concrete frame, contribute to the building’s environmental strategy.

Berkhamsted 6th form corner view illustration