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Perse School

Cambridge, United Kingdom

The Perse School in Cambridge developed a masterplan in 2012 to grow the school campus. Haworth Tompkins were appointed in 2014 to design a new central courtyard and the new Performing Arts Centre at the southern end. Choosing an autumnal colour palette and an open design, the architects beautifully integrated the building and landscape.

Open and light

“The new foyer is open and light, welcoming visitors from across the landscape” tells lead Architect Jessica Daly. “Two corner doors provide entrances into the foyer from the main footpaths, and additional doors in the centre can open on a nice day allowing people to easily flow from outside to inside. Colours from the landscape influenced the material and colour palette for the building, which uses self finished and natural materials in neutral tones, with autumnal coloured highlights in textiles and upholstery.”

Two distinct areas

The foyer is a light and open triple-height space, with an exhibition space and rehearsal room. Daly said “We used a beech LVL timber diagrid structure and buff coloured brick, which is typical of Cambridge. Engineered oak flooring on the upper floor and back of the foyer compliments the light material palette. It was important to differentiate between the light foyer space and the dark enclosed auditorium, so materials used in the auditorium relate back to the foyer, but are much darker. The doors leading into the auditorium are designed as dark ‘cut-outs’ within the buff brickwork wall of the auditorium, introducing the visitor to the dark material palette, which is reinforced by dark oak flooring”.

The biggest design challenge was to create a building that can stand the test of the school day, and provide a professional standard theatre capable of exciting pupils.

Specific challenge

A specific design challenge was how the building could function as both a school building and have the appearance of a professional theatre. Daly: “The materials had to be able to take the wear and tear of the pupils use during the school day, yet gain the respect of a professional standard, public facing theatre. We chose materials and details that are not only formal and beautiful, but that also age gracefully. Hakwood’s oak flooring provided a beautiful surface that worked very well with the palette, and ages gracefully rather than quickly appearing damaged.”

Photo credits: Philip Vile and Fred Howarth

Products used
Flooring Savoy, Sierra Collection
Grades Classical
Finish Oil
Thickness 20 mm (3/4")
Plank widths 180 mm (7")
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