Premier Construction

Eton College


Inspirational new architecture enhances Eton


Shortlisted in the Building Conservation section of the RICS Design Awards 2016, 600-year- old Eton College’s stunning new Jafar Hall and Jafar Gallery building now forms a dramatic new public entrance and greets visitors as they approach from the south.

Designed by John Simpson Architects and built by Feltham Construction, the building has also won the Best Craftsmanship Award 2015 from The Brick Development Association.

This project is part of the largest new development at Eton College since it was founded.

The latest in a series of stunning new buildings inspired by ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman architectural styles, the new Jafar Hall and Jafar Gallery houses an impressive 330-seat debating chamber and a Museum which is a flexible space.

The new building was shortlisted in the RICS awards’ Building Conservation category due to its location within a Conservation Area with many listed buildings.

The columns on the entrance portico of the Jafar Hall are based on those at the Temple of Isis at Pompeii and reference both the architecture of ancient Egypt and ancient Greece.

The hall is inspired by Hellenistic buildings in Turkey such as the Bouleuterion or Council House at Miletus, but more particularly by the Ekklesiasterion, the square public Assembly Hall of c. 200 BC in the ancient city of Priene.

Victoria Lee, Associate Director at John Simpson Architects said: “Constructed in handmade rusticated brickwork, together with Bath and Portland stone, the building is designed in a combination of classical architectural styles.

“External design features include Ionic columns and three sphinxes carved in natural stone on a pediment above the portico of the Museum. In addition, an amphitheatre is situated at the main entrance to the building.

“The main hall building has a copper roof with a hand crafted copper acroterion on the apex. Copper roofing was chosen to enable the building to integrate visually with the existing architecture which includes an adjacent copper-roofed building.”

Internally, the debating hall features raked seating around a central open floorspace with a lectern, as well as further high level seating for latecomers. A particularly striking feature of the interior is it’s beautiful hand painted ceiling.

The Jafar Gallery houses Eton’s Myers collection in specially designed temperature and humidity controlled display cases. Further features of the interior include Pompeiian style paintwork in colours typical of the period, as well as polished Sapele joinery.

In addition to being a museum, the space can be used for a variety of purposes including as a breakout and teaching space.

Victoria Lee said: “One of the most challenging elements of the project design was the need to make provision for the building’s location on a flood plain, with the design requiring approval from the Environment Agency.  The ground floor is therefore elevated by 1.4-1.7m above the flood level allowing for the passage of water through arches below.”

The building’s main source of heating is a ground source heat pump which draws the energy from the ground beneath the car park. The cooling of the Jafar Hall is also supplemented by an evaporative process which utilises the cooling effect created by the natural evaporation of water from a new copper fountain outside. The fountain is believed to be the first of its kind to be used for this purpose in the country.

The Jafar Hall and Jafar Gallery is part of a new development including a series of classical style buildings providing new schooling space and forming an academic quadrangle – all designed by John Simpson Architects.

The quadrangle is enclosed on three sides by new school buildings for economics and politics, divinity and modern languages, and on the fourth by the Jafar Hall and Gallery which takes pride of place within the development. The complex was opened last year by HRH the Prince of Wales.

“We greatly enjoyed designing the scheme and are very proud of it,” said Victoria Lee.

About the author

Premier Construction

Leave a Comment