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Brighton Girls brightens up

Walters & Cohen Architects have completed the final stage of work for the all-through Brighton Girls’ School, in Sussex

Brighton Girls is an all-through school in the heart of Brighton and a founding school of the Girls’ Day School Trust. Formerly Brighton and Hove High School, it was established in 1876 and is proud to have been an early champion of girls’ education in the UK. Education has moved on since then, but while the school’s older buildings are much loved they were no longer entirely fit for purpose. Having completed a pop-up prototyping hub at the school in 2019, Walters & Cohen were asked in 2020 to support the school’s ambitious project to reunite the senior school and prep school on one site, creating a ‘family of big sisters and little sisters’.  The architects have carried out this plan, reuniting the senior and prep schools onto one site and upgrading several older buildings to suit contemporary educational needs. The practice has created a sensitive reworking of much-loved existing buildings, while adding new elements to expand the school’s capabilities. This ambitious project brings the schools together to create the so-called ‘family of big sisters and little sisters’.  The sensitive refurbishment of three buildings – ‘Montpelier’, the Grade II listed ‘Vicarage’ and ‘Temple’ – has transformed the spaces into learning and socialising spaces fit for the twenty-first century, while enhancing their charm and character. Sensitive refurbishment of Montpelier and the Grade II listed Vicarage and Temple has transformed them into wonderful learning and socialising spaces fit for the twenty-first century while enhancing their charm and character. In the Temple, the ground floor has been converted into an exciting coffee- shop-style space for study and social activities as well as presentations, conferences and events.

As the main entrance and reception it provides a great first impression of the school. A library/study, presentation room and makerspace surrounding the main area are easily adaptable so they can be used separately or together. The basement, once a cramped locker room, storage and loos, is now a music centre, comprising music classrooms, practice rooms, a flexible performance space and specialist music storage. Up on the second floor is a new sixth form hub, subtly delineated by a plywood pop-out and a variety of furniture that the girls helped choose in workshops organised by the architects. For the Vicarage, work included removing modern interventions to restore classrooms and staff offices to their original height and character. Suitable acoustic treatment guards against noise build-up to create comfortable, functional teaching spaces. In Montpelier, the basement is transformed into new classrooms and breakout spaces for art, science and DT. Some minor interventions to the fabric of the building ensure these spaces receive good light and are accessible. Working with landscapers BHSL has improved the quality, biodiversity and function of outdoor spaces for students of all ages to enjoy. Michàl Cohen, Director and co-founder of Walters & Cohen, commented: “It’s been an honour to work with the Brighton Girls’ School, a pioneer of girls education dating back to 1876, and now securing the future for its pupils. Helping to create inspirational and effective spaces for learning through our architecture, for these foundational years, is a privilege.”

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