Glance through one of the large windows of the new Mill Street Building at Knights Park and you may just catch a glimpse of the UK's next award-winning film director. Take a virtual tour and watch the next generation of designers and architects, journalists and photographers, honing their craft in the dedicated professional studios of Mill Street.
When architects Haworth Tompkins (the Architects' Journal AJ100 Practice of the Year), were asked to transform Kingston School of Art's Mill Street Building, they began by determining the physical demands required of such an upgrade by considering what the students needed from their building.
Mill Street houses a wide range of creative courses – filmmaking, photography, furniture design and architecture – requiring a huge amount of specialist equipment and a great deal of space.
The existing 1970s building provided almost 10,000sqm of floor space but it wasn't being used effectively. The redesign examined how space was being used, re-thinking how it could work more efficiently.
The architects identified the best characteristics of the existing site, embracing the robust and industrial elements of what was already there, such as its raw brick, steel and concrete shell which remained in good condition. Retaining these elements helped to keep the equivalent of around 1.5 million kilograms of embodied CO2 locked-up, when compared with rebuilding.
Inside, they opened up the space, maximising natural light and creating flexibility and adaptability. Redundant plant spaces were repurposed, and the existing lift and stair cores were extended, revealing previously inaccessible areas that were turned into design studios. Sloped glazing was introduced to previously blank areas of the north façade, providing quality natural light to north-facing studios and opening up views across the city.
At the heart of the upgrade are the state-of-the-art facilities for ceramics, photography, film production, woodwork, metalwork, plaster, printmaking, letterpress and digital hack. The workshops now hold almost 200 individual machines, while a double height space allows students to work at a scale that would have been impossible previously.
The result is a world-class learning facility for practice-based learning. Courses with natural symbiosis can now collaborate more easily in the workshops and studios, encouraging creative exploration and sharing of ideas. All of which support the School's underlying ethos of thinking through making.
Mill Street Building is among this year's finalists for the Royal Institute of British Architects' (RIBA) annual awards for the London region and is shortlisted in the New London Awards 2020, in association with the Mayor of London.
Kingston School of Art retained its place as number one in the UK for art and crafts in the latest Guardian University Guide league tables.