St. Teresa's Sixth Form Centre

Shortlisted for the Architects' Journal 'School Project of the Year' 2018

St Teresa’s School is an independent girls’ school located in the green belt in the Surrey Hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty. The new Sixth Form Centre is the first phase of IF_DO’s 10-year masterplan for St Teresa’s, which aims not only to improve the school’s built fabric, but also to reconnect the primary teaching areas of the site to the natural landscape around it.

The masterplan identified the need for a new facility with smaller classrooms to accommodate a university-style teaching experience. It was driven by a collegiate approach and envisages a network of colonnades and courtyards to stitch together existing disparate facilities. The new Sixth Form Centre embodies these principles, with the creation of a new ‘Sixth Form Quad’, and colonnaded walkways integrated into the building.

With a very tight budget and an ambitious brief, the design evolved from a principle of modularity and prefabrication. Splitting the building into two discrete blocks allowed for greater construction efficiencies, with more cellular spaces in the ‘teaching block’ (classrooms, offices, common room and study room); and a separate block housing the lecture theatre. The two blocks are joined by a covered link which acts as the main entry point and circulation space and provides a clear visual connection from the Sixth Form Quad to the woodland beyond.

Nature pervades the entire scheme - from the formal courtyards to the outdoor ‘woodland’ classroom to the tree growing through the roof canopy at the centre of the plan – the scheme includes a sequence of elements which harness the under-utilised green spaces around it.

On the western side of the building two floors of classrooms look out over the new Sixth Form Quad, while the common room and reading room are located at the eastern end of the building, directly overlooking the adjacent woodland. At first floor level the reading room elevates students into the canopy of the surrounding trees—creating a calming and focussed space for study.

The lecture theatre, located to the south of the teaching block, was designed to take full benefit of the surrounding landscape, with full-width glazing providing a window onto woodland and a scenic backdrop to the stage.

“Working with IF_DO has been a very rewarding process, and achieving planning permission so smoothly is testament to their skill and creativity. This project is an important one for us, both in delivering a landmark building for St Teresa’s, and in providing outstanding Sixth Form teaching facilities for the future. The energy IF_DO have brought to the project, particularly in inspiring and enthusing the pupils, has been wonderful to see.” 

— Mike Farmer, Headmaster

"This building represents the unlocking of the campus’s potential, both in the quality and expressive character of its design. Its engagement with the setting will continue to improve, with the strategic opening up of sightlines and pathways to the spectacular surroundings, as laid out in IF_DO’s 10-year masterplan for the site."

— Blueprint magazine

“IF_DO’s commitment, passion, expertise and drive has delivered an outstanding project on budget and on time. Their skill and dedication to detail has given St Teresa’s the flagship Sixth Form Centre we had hoped for—more than could have been expected—that will enable the school to set itself on track to give young pupils studying for their A-levels the very best opportunity to achieve great things.”

— Michael Bray, Chair of Governors

St. Teresa's School Effingham Trust


Net Zero Buildings


Effingham, Surrey


660 sqm (+220sqm covered external area)