16th August 2021 — The state-of-the-art, three-storey building was among the winners in the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) South East Awards, an annual competition which celebrates the very best of architecture in the UK. The winning regional projects will now go on to compete for national awards later in the year.
The Barton Science Centre was originally included in the shortlist for the South East RIBA Regional Awards 2020. Due to Covid restrictions, judging was delayed until recently, with winners being announced in August 2021.
The building was designed by architectural practice BDP, and was funded in part by the many hundreds of donors who contributed to the school’s ‘Excellence for All’ campaign over a period of several years.
RIBA judges found that the purpose of the new space, “To inspire a new generation of young scientists,” had been achieved, and that the centre “delivered the very best teaching spaces on every level”.
The awards citation stated: “The Barton Science Centre is the most significant development at the school in more than 130 years. This includes the full refurbishment of the original science building, which is dated 1887 and was the first purpose-built science centre in the country.
“Overall, this is a brilliant new science building with a respectful and intelligent approach to the refurbishment of the existing building.”
Name after former Tonbridge pupil Sir Derek Barton, an organic chemist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1969, the Barton Science Centre is a blend of the old and the new, combining much of the Victorian architecture of the school’s original science building with a magnificent new extension, innovative classroom layouts and latest technology.
The three main levels are dedicated to, respectively, Physics, Biology and Chemistry, with other features including an interactive periodic table, a roof garden and greenhouse, a giant TV wall, three libraries and an observation hive for studying bees. It is also the venue for Tonbridge’s popular ‘Science for Schools’ days for local primary pupils, and also hosts public lectures and a variety of other events.
The Barton Science Centre was officially opened in March 2019 by NASA astronauts and former International Space Station Commanders Dr Michael Foale CBE and Dr Steve Swanson.
James Priory, Headmaster of Tonbridge School, said: “RIBA Awards are renowned across the world and we are delighted to be named among the latest winners. The Barton Science Centre plays a huge role at Tonbridge, placing us at the forefront of teaching and learning in modern science, and has an important role as a hub in the community, hosting primary school visits, family days, international student conferences, school competitions and public talks.
“Our award is also recognition of a genuine team effort between the School and its architects (BDP), builders (Baxall Construction) and consultants (Synergy and CTP), all of us inspired by a passion for innovation and for delivering world-class teaching.”
RIBA Awards are given to buildings judged to have national and regional importance and are regarded internationally as a mark of excellence, recognising the best architecture, architects and research.