Cumnor House School – The Hovels

Six new classrooms and a craft design technology studio at a co-educational preparatory school in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Sussex. The building replaces an earlier farm building,... Read More.

Six new classrooms and a craft design technology studio at a co-educational preparatory school in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Sussex.

The building replaces an earlier farm building, and forms one element of a wider landscape proposal to rationalise and refine the vehicle and pedestrian routes across the site, and reinforce the existing emerging structure of the school buildings as a series of interrelated courtyards, each with a different and complementary character.

Following the successful completion of this project in March 2006, MBA were commissioned to develop a master plan and landscape proposals for the school’s continued expansion, and to design a new theatre for the school which was completed in August 2008.

From the west, the new building appears across the open fields like a slab of colour, a horizontal brush stroke of a Cezanne landscape. The roof tiles are from Keymer, located less than ten miles from the site, at Burgess Hill in Sussex.

Approaching from the fields, it becomes clear that the building, framed by huge copper beeches, is not a barn. The rhythm of windows suggests an internal subdivision.

Lanterns on the ridge confirm the position of stairwells. They provide natural stack ventilation for the building. Overhanging eaves protect the natural larch cladding, which is left untreated.

The view from the Lewes Road which forms the western boundary of the school site. The elevation is relatively closed, to reduce the transmission of road noise and to avoid overheating from the western sun.

The north elevation, showing the building nestling into the hill. At first floor, a classroom window overlooks the school’s northern entrance.

A detail of the east elevation facing the old farmyard, now used for parking. At the top a ventilating lantern sits in the handmade tile roof. A glazed canopy projects from the larch clad wall to provide shelter between lessons. Protection from vehicular traffic is provided by reclaimed motorway crash barriers, around which a box hedge has been planted, which in due course will mask them from view.

The south elevation opens onto the pre-prep courtyard, and offers a more open and welcoming elevation. Double doors lead out from the courtyard to a paved area incorporating a chessboard. In due course an awning may be added here. The upper window reaches down to floor level to provide views and overlooking. It is narrow to prevent overheating, and to allow a shaft of sunlight to rotate around the classroom during the course of the day.

A sketch model, with the roof removed, shows the internal organisation of the building. The central double classroom on the upper floor is the craft design room. The model shows the relationship to the other existing buildings around the former farm yard.

Interior of the workshop. The ceiling is shaped by scissor trusses forming the roof structure. Low eaves help bring the scale of the space down, and eaves windows provide views. Natural light and ventilation is provided by large roof lights in the east slope of the roof.

A general view of the workshop showing alternating low and high ceilings. Throughout there is a concern to make the spaces work from a child’s perspective.

Finally, a view from the northern classroom back across the fields from which this virtual tour started. We hope you have enjoyed this tour of the hovels.

Danehill, Sussex, UK

Cumnor House School
Project Architect
Marcus Beale
Marcus Peel Photography