London-based practice de Matos Ryan has refurbished the refectory building of Hockerill Anglo-European College, transforming a cramped cluttered poorly lit 1960s extension into a spacious civilised dining hall.
The project is part of the Sorrell Foundation’s JoinedUpDesignforSchools, a UK-wide initiative to demonstrate how good design can improve the quality of life in schools. De Matos Ryan was originally appointed in 2004 by The Sorrell Foundation to engage pupils of the school in a consultation process to identify areas in need of improvement and was later appointed by the school itself to implement the refurbishment,
In the initial consultation stage a student survey revealed that 90% of pupils at the International Baccalaureate boarding school were unhappy with their dining environment. The college refectory, where all meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – are eaten, became the focus of De Matos Ryans’ brief. The refectory building is a single storey 1960s appendage to the original Grade II Listed Victorian building. The principal causes for concern were the lack of space, natural light and poor ventilation as well as problems with circulation which resulted in a backlog of students queuing at the entrance and adjacent yard at mealtimes. Areas around the perimeter of the refectory building had, over time, been colonized as additional teaching space, whilst the back-of-house service and kitchen areas were inefficiently planned. The refurbishment has been informed by the De Matos Ryans’ experience in the luxury hospitality sector where the arrival is a critical aspect of the overall experience. New steel beams have been inserted to open up the refectory building creating a brighter more civilised dining hall and a new glazed entrance pavilion has been added to mark the arrival to the refectory and manage the flow of pupils into and out of the dining hall. A new servery reclaims the under-utilised back-of-house areas and some of the original kitchen. By removing partitions the new servery provides a generous area for ‘food theatre’. A continuous ‘solid surface’ counter meanders through the servery, defining the different food dispense locations whilst a beech plywood-clad wall provides the separation between the servery and the dining area. Peripheral teaching spaces have been relocated to other parts of the college campus and the dining hall now fills the refectory building. The elevation has been transformed; new full-height double-glazed windows replace the original smaller window, maximising daylight into the dining hall whilst opening up views out to the picturesque college campus. Large double glazed sliding doors provide direct access onto the school gardens, facilitating a seemless transition indoor and outdoor for al fresco dining in the summer. High-level electrically operated clerestory windows have been installed between existing glu-laminated beams (in place of solid infill partitions) to bring further daylight into the space, and to allow natural ventilation. An existing commercial dishwasher unit is now concealed in a blue glass envelope, which separates the entrance and exit routes. A student gallery space forms the exit route for diners. High quality aspects of the original 1960s extension have been retained and restored such as the hardwood parquet floor and the large-span glu-laminated beams, enhanced by a subtly varying colour palette selected by the student design team. Large new pendant lights form a feature in the main dining space, and offer both direct and indirect lighting, with a variety of settings conducive to dining at all times of the day and evening events out of school hours. The improvement in the dining environment, together with improvements to the refectory menu has seen a dramatic increase in the number of students opting to take school meals. The refectory is now a popular space on the college campus, functioning as a busy canteen at meal times and a relaxed study space and venue for functions at other times of the day.