New Design: St John’s College Pre-Preparatory

WORDS Malibongwe Tyilo IMAGES Michael Schmucker via

Johannesburg’s pre-preparatory school building for St John’s College was built originally in the 1960s, an addition to a historic school built over a century ago.

After many attempts at redesigning the historic building, the college’s council made a decision to demolish the old and build anew on the same site. They called on TC Design Architects to create the new building, now situated on the college’s Upper Houghton school campus. Its 3000 square metres now includes six new classrooms, an art/drama and therapy centre, a music centre, library, computer centre, hall and an administration block.

Considering that the college’s initial buildings were designed by Sir Herbert Baker back in 1907, when the school moved to its current location, heritage was always an important part of the debate. So the design team went about finding ways to acknowledge contemporary design and technologies while still paying homage to the stone buildings of early 20th century architecture. The new single-storey structure is comprised of a series of “little houses”, which function as grade classrooms. These classrooms, as well as the above-mentioned centres, are designer with natural light and ventilation in mind. The materials used have been considered for durability and ease of long-term maintenance, as well as recycling opportunities.

The environmental consciousness doesn’t stop there. Heating is provided for through a heat pump-driven underfloor system. The school’s steel roof has a double layer of thermal and acoustic insulation, and there is double-glazing throughout to ensure maximum insulation. There’s also provision for a grey water system for toilets and irrigation, and planted roofs are used to enhance biodiversity, and aesthetics.