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Finton House School

Lead Architect

James Dinwiddie

Construction Cost

£2 million


Completed August 2013

Site Area / Building Area

2,024sqm / 400sqm

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The Emma Thornton Building, Finton House School, London SW17

In desperate need of more space and only a restricted site to work with, Finton House School needed an imaginative solution to provide additional specialist teaching and Learning Support facilities without losing any of the valuable playground space.

Dinwiddie MacLaren Architects’ proposal was to create a new building with 85 per cent of the building below ground level. The modest new Learning Support Building, roughly the same size above ground as the building it replaces, and the glass-lined stairwell, is the only outward indication of the vast changes that have been made. Below the playground, DMA have added teaching spaces for Design and Technology, Science and Music, including bespoke music ‘pods’.

The key to the success of teaching spaces below ground is to eliminate the common negative characteristics of basement rooms, such as lack of light, air and view.  The light-filled stairwell is lined on all sides with frameless glass with a digital inter-layer. Every panel of the bespoke glass is unique; designed to be opaque in areas where it conceals building structure and transparent where it is needed to allow light in and views out from the teaching spaces.  With the glass extending from floor to ceiling, it also reflects direct sunlight into the teaching spaces, increasing the intensity of natural light and further enhancing the illusion of being at ground level amongst the trees.