Clifton College – School House

Revisiting Victorian Values

Grade II Listed building and landscape, Conservation Area.

Substantial alterations and repairs to Clifton’s original boarding house and headmaster’s house constructed by Charles Hansom in 1861-2. The project involved inserting a new four storey steel framed building into the courtyard of the boarding house, effectively doubling its capacity, following an extensive analysis of the school’s operational needs and the form and significance of the existing landscape.

Bristol Civic Award - 2005

Project Architect
Marcus Beale Architects
Job Architect
Marcus Beale, Roger H Meadows, Heather Shepherd , Felix Lang, Marc Nicholas, Victoria Briggs, Tom Houston

Bristol, UK

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Clifton College - School House - Halls of Residence - Exterior

New boarding house at heart of historic school

In 2001 MBA won an invited competition to design a major refurbishment of Clifton College’s original boarding house and headmaster’s house to equip it for the twenty first century. Although a model boarding house by the standards of its time – the architect in 1861-2 was Charles Hansom, who designed all the College’s core buildings – expectations had changed and the College wished to adapt the building to provide good modern facilities whilst preserving the historic character of the original school.

Clifton College - School House - Halls of Residence - Exterior

How the design was developed

Analysing the building included staying at the property to experience the environment first hand and canvassing opinions from students and staff about worked best and worst. Needs of education and accommodation were tested against the spaces provided by the original School House and options explored: to combine other uses with the existing or to increase the amount of boarding accommodation.

Illustration from the south east of Charles Hansom’s original scheme for Clifton, with School House on the extreme left. From 1862

Challenges in Construction

Challenges facing the design and construction team included: carrying out major works to a building, half of which was occupied at any one time, excavating around a historic building and next to public roads and footpaths, and the technical difficulty of slotting a prefabricated steel frame into an existing courtyard.

A Social Space

As well as sleeping accommodation the design provides places for social interaction, formal and informal gatherings. These were clustered around new circulation spaces threaded between the existing and new accommodation. A key concern was to create a logical, easily navigable house layouts, with no dead-ends. As a result, there is plenty of opportunity for social interaction throughout the new houses.

Clifton College - School House - Halls of Residence - Exterior

Environmental Sustainability

High thermal mass of the original stone building was exploited to combine with passive solar design in the new extension. The courtyard, now glazed, acts as a climate-modifier, through which adjacent accommodation ventilates using stack effect. Motorised windows at high level regulate the airflow and temperature. The continuous skylight is grey tinted to limit solar gain.

Clifton College - School House - Halls of Residence - Interior

The Building in Use

The project was delivered successfully in 2004 despite tight time and budget constraints. Clifton’s new boarding houses were awarded the Bristol Civic Society’s Environmental Award in 2005, for their positive contribution to the City of Bristol. Users were consulted after completion, to measure their satisfaction with the new houses. The vast majority of users regard their houses as good or excellent, demonstrating the success of this challenging project.

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Clifton College - School House - Halls of Residence - Exterior