WDA were commissioned by Taunton School in January 2017 to develop a campus wide Masterplan for their Staplegrove Road campus in Taunton, Somerset. The recently completed new all school dining and catering facility was the first capital project from the Masterplan to be delivered. The project commenced in July 2019 and was formerly opened by HRH The Princess Royal on 9th December 2020.
The new building lies at the heart of the School’s listed campus, set between two existing buildings and set directly behind the Grade II Listed Main Building with feature stair tower. The new building replaces a former 6th form study space and various back of house catering areas which were poorly arranged, preventing enjoyment of the adjacent central green space referred to as Densham Green.
The design and brief for the new dining hall and catering facility was driven out of a need for greater dining capacity and flexible space for the school to continue to provide first class catering to service a cohort in excess of 1300 pupils and 300 staff throughout the year. Achieving an efficient servery system was essential to the success of the project, with the proposals cutting average pupil queue times from in excess of 20 minutes down to less than 4 minutes. WDA collaborated with specialist catering provider SPACE Catering whom undertook extensive dynamic modelling of the servery and halls to inform the resultant catering design.
The new dining hall provides in excess of 440 covers in one dual use hall, and is designed to cater for pupils from Nursery through to 6th form. The halls provide flexibility of use and can be sub-divided by a centrally located 4m tall ‘hit and miss’ part glazed acoustic mobile partition to create two separate function rooms each offering state of the art IT and AV capabilities to suit a range of ancillary activities for both the school and opportunities for wider local community use.
Early engagement with Taunton Deane’s Planning and Conservation department was instrumental to the success of the project, following collaborative pre-applications enquiries, full planning and listed building consent was granted in less than 10 weeks.
The building’s design, structural grid and plan form respects the architectural axis established by the School’s central stair tower, which is expressed as a feature within the hall via a new interfacing glazed roof lantern. A number of original façades to the interfacing buildings were carefully restored, providing character to the new dining hall interior, whilst a light weight glu-laminated structure denotes the new contemporary built intervention. The use of sustainable self-finished materials create a visually warm and acoustically pleasant open plan space, which opens out on to the adjacent lawned quad and external terracing. Highly glazed façades optimise daylight penetration, along with roof lights and passive ventilation turrets set at roof level.