Wycombe Abbey School

Wycombe Abbey is an independent girls’ boarding school in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. It is academically one of the top schools in the United Kingdom, and the top girls’ boarding school.

In 2012, the school recognised the need for a masterplan that would improve the standard of their boarding accommodation through a programme of renovation/reconfiguration of the existing and construction of new. Phase I of the masterplan comprises a pair of new build boarding houses, located on the redundant swimming pool site at the edge of the Langley Valley.

Wycombe Abbey enjoys a magnificent site that forms the major part of a nationally significant landscape (Grade II) as recorded in English Heritage’s Register of Parks and Gardens of Historic Importance in England. The site also forms the setting for a backdrop of rich historical architecture including the Grade II* listed Abbey and Caroe designed boarding houses and Chapel.  

The challenge for the new accommodation has been to create a new, innovative and forward thinking environment within a functional but sensitive design that does not diminish or erode the historic context, or threaten the wonderful tranquillity enjoyed within the site. In addition, the siting of the new boarding houses on the redundant swimming pool site provided a fantastic opportunity to enhance the landscape by removing the harsh rectilinear geometry that the existing buildings had imposed with an unsympathetic cut and fill into the landscape, and by creating a new building and landscape that is better integrated into the sweeping contours of the adjacent Langley Valley.

The project provides boarding accommodation for 108 girls (54 in each house), two Housemistress houses (three bedrooms each), two Housemistress Assistant flats (two bedrooms each) and two Matron flats (one bedroom each) – all equally distributed between the two houses. In addition the building includes recreational spaces such as a large living room, kitchen and social rooms for each house along with study spaces for every girl including day boarding girls and shared music practice rooms. Pastoral and study support spaces are also provided for each house. In addition the new buildings are set within a landscaped setting that incorporates functional aspects such as good pedestrian and vehicular access, external recreational areas for the girls, private gardens for the house mistresses, and shared gardens for the more junior staff, whilst ensuring that the design is sensitively integrated into the surrounding landscape context.  The building acheived its targeted BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rating.