Kingston School of Art, 2019

a transformative and creative upgrade to Kingston University’s Knights Park Campus

Having completed a Masterplan in 2016, Haworth Tompkins were tasked with undertaking a major upgrade and extension to Kingston University’s Knights Park Campus to provide over 10000 sqm of refurbished creative space for Kingston School of Art. The most significant element of the BREEAM Outstanding project was the comprehensive overhaul of the 1970s Mill Street Building.

The building had become seized up by ad hoc modifications, a confusing layout and a poor environmental performance. Much like an old machine in need of a service, the building has undergone a series of tweaks, repairs and upgrades to ensure it will function well into the future, whilst maintaining its worn-in character.

Sculpted window surrounds, introduced to reduce peak solar gain in the summer months, include deep aerofoil fins, providing a nod to the Sopwith factories that once employed 40,000 people in Kingston. Much like the building’s aged red bricks, the weathering steel has an imperfect quality and will continue to change appearance; darkening and oxidising over time.

The raw brick, steel and concrete shell and core was re-utilised and repaired, and a renewed set of studios and workshops formed within. New glazing provides quality light to north-facing studios, previously occupied by plant rooms, while over 1000 sqm of flat roof has been put to work, providing outdoor teaching spaces, wildlife habitats and green roofs.

The building is a ‘layer cake’ of creative production with the ground floor housing a vast 3D workshop (including Woodwork, Metalwork, Welding, Stonework, Ceramics, Plaster and Big Build) the first floor a 2D workshop (including Moving Image, Photography, Digital Media, Printmaking, Letterpress and BookArts) and the layers above providing lively home studios for design courses, with views across Kingston.

The wide range of open-access technical facilities delivered through the project are not only the result of investment in digital technologies, but also a recognition of the value of analogue technologies, such as Letterpress, Darkroom Photography, Bronze Casting, Blacksmithing, Ceramics, Stone Carving, and analogue Film Making. The layout taps into this potential, with state of the art digital edit suites allowing views into photographic studios and printing presses - 200 years of technology in one place.

A significant proportion of the redesign was devoted to a much-needed untangling and rethinking of how space is used within the school. Courses have been rejoined and grouped by mutual requirements leading to workshops and studio spaces being open for creative exploration and allowing students and staff to share ideas.

Kingston School of Art’s underlying ethos of Thinking Through Making has been reinforced through an extensive upgrade to workshop facilities, which houses almost 200 individual machines. A double height big-build space linked to the workshops allows students to work at a scale that would have been difficult previously.

The project achieved BREEAM Outstanding and delivered a 52% reduction in operational carbon emissions. Fabric enhancements included replacing patent glazing with a new high-performance glazing system, increased insulation and airtightness and the complete replacement of 50-year-old heating and ventilation systems.

The project brings together design disciplines with similar studio requirements, including Architecture, Graphic Design, Illustration Animation, Products & Furniture and Interior Design. This allows for these departments to expand or contract within a flexible set of spaces without the need for major modifications to the building.

This spatial flexibility is supported by an infrastructure of pinboard walls, exposed service grids, suspended power modules, sinks, data points, furniture alcoves and pivoting walls, allowing the building to adapt to changing needs without the need for wasteful replanning.

The 1930s Quadrangle Building has been repurposed to provide space for the Fashion department. Tall north-facing workshops provide a suite of knitting and sewing machines, whilst adjacent spaces house design studios and specialist functions, such as digital knitting.

“This is an impressive retrofit, one that has elucidated and rationalised the existing architecture while also intensifying its use – visibly upgrading and improving the original without losing its spirit.” Rob Wilson, Architects' Journal


kingston university london

main contractor


project manager

turner & townsend

structural engineer


services engineer


quantity surveyor

rider levett bucknall

BIM coordinator

haworth tompkins & majenta

picture credits

philip vile

2021 — RIBA London Award: Kingston School of Art
2021 — RIBA London Client of the Year: Kingston University
2021 — BREEAM Awards, Best Public Sector Project post construction: Kingston School of Art

Behind the scenes
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