On 22nd May, twelve sixth form students and Dr Cooke were lucky enough to be shown around the site of the new Science Centre. Over the past three terms, upwards of fifty people have been working on the site each day to ensure that it is finished in time for the January 2019 deadline, and the progress the build has made is extraordinary.
Main entrance to Tonbridge School's new Science Centre
As is evident to all students, the main frame of the new building has taken shape between the old building and Dry Hill House. The floors and windows have been put in and all structural elements are in place. It was fantastic to be able to use the new entrance outside of the theatre which the cantilevered part of the overall structure overhangs. The structural engineers mentioned that the cantilever had been a considerable engineering challenge for the team, but the architectural team won out in the end, and the building looks the better for having it.
After entering through the new entrance, we were taken into the ground floor physics laboratories. The bare concrete was still visible, and we could see how the structural engineers had calculated all the structural support that is necessary to hold everything together. The new extension feels very welcoming due to huge amounts of natural light let in by the surrounding glass walls and will be a tremendous place to study, placing Tonbridge at the forefront of science education. Both the roof and the cantilevered first floor give brilliant views of the school and playing fields.
The hub of the new Science Centre - the Atrium
We then took the new stairs up the atrium to the old chemistry classrooms which will eventually become the biology department when the new science centre is completed. Here the walls were already receiving a fresh lick of paint and a lot of the curtain walling (the metal strips you can see outside English) were already beginning to have glass put in them. The extension contains two labs per floor, each with its own theory and practical space. These labs, particularly the physics ones, have very high ceilings allowing for educational displays to be hung. These ceilings will have an industrial look, allowing the steel skeleton of the building and pipe work to remain exposed.
Each floor has been created by pouring concrete onto aluminium sheeting supported by steel I-beams. It is this sheeting and the piping that is routed through the holes in the I-beams that will be exposed to view. On top of the concrete, acoustic insulation has been laid. This will prevent raucous classes of Novi from distracting the more studious sixth formers studying above or below.
Classroom comes to shape in new Science Centre
The old biology facility is soon to become chemistry at the very top of the building. These classrooms in the old part of the building only need minimal changes as they were still in a good condition and, as it was for both physics and chemistry, their classrooms in the new building will be fantastic spaces.
We had to take a ladder up to the roof, as the spiral staircase which will eventually provide access is not yet in place. The space on the roof is nonetheless fantastic. The roof garden will provide a tranquil space for independent study during the summer for sixth form students. The new lab spaces are a huge step up from the old building and even better than the Temporary Science Village, if you can believe that! They're spacious and open with plenty of natural light, making it a pleasant space to work and study in.
- Barton Science Centre