“Extensive retrofit” will convert former university building into independent day school

East London-based practice Ackroyd Lowrie has secured planning consent for an “extensive retrofit” that will convert former university buildings in Kensington into a 23-classroom independent junior school.

The firm said its plans for St Albans Grove, around 600m south of Kensington Palace, would tie two historic buildings together with “sensitive, modern interventions” and revitalise the character of the street, which is in the De Vere Conservation Area.

Client for the project is prep-school operator Thomas’s Day Schools, which counts Prince George and Princess Charlotte among the past pupils at one of its Battersea schools.

In addition to the classrooms, Ackroyd Lowrie’s proposals for Atlantic House – a former base for Richmond, the American International University – will also create sound-proofed music rooms, libraries, dining halls, an assembly hall, offices, flexible community spaces and a planted roof garden.

Ackroyd Lowrie previously worked with Thomas’s Day Schools on the conversion of the Royal Academy of Dance in Battersea into a secondary school.

Managing director Jon Ackroyd said the central challenge with the Kensington proposals was to provide a modern and safe learning environment at the same time as respecting the existing character of the two buildings – one Victorian, the other mid-20th century.

Thomas's Kensington playground perspective (Credit Ackroyd Lowrie)

Source: Ackroyd Lowrie

“The main move was to remove an insensitive extension that links the two historic buildings and introduce a light-filled central atrium that will be the heart of the school, including a new stair and lift to completely change the way the buildings are navigated,” he said.

“This atrium will also provide a new main entrance, and act as a welcoming, public face to the school.”

Ackroyd said the practice’s overall approach followed passive design principles and sought to refurbish the majority of Atlantic House’s existing area and retain its shell and part of the frame.

Thomas's Kensington south west aerial (Credit Ackroyd Lowrie)

Source: Ackroyd Lowrie

“This includes upgrading the thermal fabric to above building regulation standards, which will significantly reduce associated heat losses from an old building and provide internal temperature control,” he said.

“Renewable energy technology including photovoltaic panels and air source heat pumps will ensure maximum energy efficiency, flow restrictors on taps and dual flush toilets will reduce water consumption, and rainwater collection butts are specified for landscape irrigation.”

Work on-site is expected to begin later this year, with the aim of staff and students moving in for the 2024-25 academic year.

Thomas’s Kensington’s fees currently start af £7,255 a term.


Source: Google Maps

The Albans Grove property pictured in 2017