Roedean School Masterplan
East Sussex, 2017

A masterplan for the phased extension and redevelopment of a historic campus overlooking the English Channel, home of the renowned independent school.

Roedean is an independent girls school near Brighton, a Grade II listed campus in the South Downs National Park. We were commissioned to develop a phased masterplan for a costed, achievable development strategy for the next decade. The masterplan aimed to:

  • provide adequate spatial capacity to accommodate the school’s peak population,
  • maximise the use of existing fabric, minimising the need for new build
  • simplify delivery by ensuring no costly temporary accommodation buildings were required for decant

The school has consistently developed its school estate since moving to its current site 120 years ago. The site boundaries have been extended, original buildings adapted, landscape altered and new permanent and temporary buildings realised (and removed).

The first stage of making a plan for the future is to understand the present. We collated over a century of piecemeal information to produce a full set of measured plans, coordinated with the existing building management system’s schedule of rooms. We analysed the size and use of every room on the campus, identifying opportunities for new uses and timetabling to solve perceived shortages of space.

Alongside our qualitative investigations we conducted workshops and circulated questionnaires with the pupils and staff to gain an understanding of the qualitative aspects of Roedean. Day-in-the-life diaries revealed how the pupils used the campus, identifying the significance and serendipity of unexpected spaces. Thorough review of the school's archive provided documents, drawings, photographs and film that captured the diverse events of the school community, ensuring our proposals built on its history and culture.

The school was originally designed around the Main Corridor, an organising device that allowed easy access in all weathers between boarding houses and the Main School. The 138m (452ft) long and 1.9m (6’4”) wide corridor had many practical advantages and provided a single common space which all pupils, staff and visitors regularly used. This was the original Roedean Commons. Developments at Roedean since World War II have extended and compromised the clarity of the Main Corridor, with labyrinthine corridors, dead ends and significant bottlenecks.

We proposed a new ‘High Road’ at Roedean, that complements the ‘Low Road’ of the Main Corridor. The ‘scenic’ High Road knits together existing fabric - the Cloisters, Chapel, Theatre, Music, Science and DT - through a combination of new buildings and external covered walkways. This approach creates a series of new indoor and outdoor communal spaces for the civic life of the school to occur - the new Commons.

The focus of the school shifts from the Main Corridor to a series of quads, following the spatial model of the Cambridge colleges that the Roedean founders were so keen to prepare girls for. This allows the school to accommodate more pupils and create a more diverse range of learning environments in which to provide Roedean’s renowned holistic education.

The masterplan identified potential development sites and set out a series of discrete works, phased to meet the agreed priorities within the available budget. The delivery cost plan described the sequence of delivering the works based upon the school’s capital works budget for the next ten years. It aimed to minimise any expenditure beyond the stated budget, allowing the school to significantly de-risk the financial impact of delivering a number of significant building projects over a ten year period.

Phase 1 Learning Commons
We were appointed to design and deliver the first phase of the masterplan, the new Learning Commons.

Phase 2 Performing Arts Centre
Following the successful delivery of the Learning Commons we were invited to develop the brief and designs for a new Performing Arts Centre. The existing Chapel and Theatre provided high quality, but isolated performance spaces. A new building connects existing and new performing arts spaces with the rest of the school, along the new 'High Road', and creates a new public entrance. The new centre includes a state of the art rehearsal studio, music rooms, practice rooms, dance studio and generous foyer for informal events.

Roedean School

Roedean Way, Brighton BN2 5RQ

Theatre consultant