Associated with the co-operative movement and supported by leading Victorian social reformers and intellectuals, the Working Men’s College in Camden is one of the oldest providers of adult education in Europe. It is housed in a 1904 Grade II-listed red-brick building design by W.D. Caroe. Over the years, after a number of earlier extensions and adaptations the building suffers from poor ventilation and prone to overheating. A rather prosaic brief to mitigate this offered a very special opportunity. The new mixed-mode ventilation system we have introduced with consulting engineers Brinson Staniland Partnership reads as a visible, almost brutal, intervention against the ornate finishes of the building, executed with deliberateness and repetition. Cool air is extracted through the staircases at roof level and drawn through the corridors, where it feeds into each classroom. The air is then exhausted through the façade in extract units located in the old coal fire ventilation grilles. Secondary glazing to the south-facing façade creates a thermal buffer, sandwiched with a reflective roller blind to help minimise the effects of solar gain.
In addition to the heating and ventilation works, we have been assisting the college in securing funding for further alterations to make the existing spaces more relevant to delivering 21st century courses and education for adults. The first phase of this work was to transform a disused basement space into a new Open Learning Centre. Further phases will include the refurbishment of the library and Maurice Hall and the development of Design Guidelines for the college to implement as part of their ongoing maintenance.