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New images of Smythe Library

New images by Hufton + Crow show the refurbished Smythe Library at Tonbridge School.

Tonbridge School recognised that the 1962 library building, built by Sir William Holford, no longer fulfilled the demands of a 21st century learning centre. Our task was to extend and refurbish the library to reflect the school’s current and future needs.

The biggest challenge was to balance the school’s need for a modern day learning facility with their existing historic building stock. Through extensive consultation with teachers and pupils, the team developed an understanding of the wide range of teaching and learning preferences within the school. These included the need for social spaces, presentation areas, cubby holes and bean bag areas as well as more traditional reading spaces.

We stripped out all internal walls and corridors to create more open, flexible spaces spread over four levels of the existing building. Contemporary extensions to the north and south sides of the library were completed to take advantage of the school’s well-manicured gardens and vast grounds creating an experience similar to that of a gothic cathedral cloister.

The design takes advantage of the building’s narrow footprint and the addition of the largely glazed stair tower to the south of the building meant we were able to drive a simple natural ventilation strategy as well as providing high levels of natural daylight.

The experimental teaching space located on the ground floor is a tech-rich environment including state of the art IT equipment, ‘write-on’ walls and tables, movable partitions and flexible modular furniture.

The £3.6m building was delivered on budget over 13 months to ensure minimal disruption to the ongoing operation of the school and in time for its opening in September.

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