It’s all in the details: Brockwood’s Architectural Treasures

Maryam Benoit
Maryam Benoit grew up on and around the Brockwood grounds from the age of 9 until she graduated at 18. Then she attended Inwoods Small School in its first years. She was then a student at Brockwood Park School from 2006-2011 and is now studying Architecture at Bennington College in Vermont, USA, a College where several Brockwood alumni have studied. On a recent visit we asked her to serve as our architectural tour guide of the buildings at Brockwood Park. The goal was to look at the old familiar buildings with a fresh eye. Here we share with you her photos and observations.
The Study
This unused wooden door in the Study leads to the Drawing Room in the West Wing. It is surrounded by a tall panelled surface and blends in with the fine engravings and carved floral patterns that rim the top of the panelled surface. The style of the wall and thick wooden door don’t match the exterior style of the main building. This suggests that the interior design was not in the original plan of the house but added at a later stage. The panelled surface covers all four walls of the Study and creates an intimate feel to the room, making it perfect for quiet reflection or small group discussions, which is what the room is used for.
Main School House
This picture captures a part of the Main House from the kitchen roof and looks out at the exterior walls of staff accommodation. The lower window suggests that there is a bathroom there because of its dimensions, and the upper window was most probably a later addition. This is shown through the awkward spacing of the window—the very small space between the top of the window and the roof. Looking carefully at this picture, I get the sense that the entire block was added at a later stage to the rest of the main building, and the architects involved were not very concerned about the aesthetics of the addition because it is hidden on the roof.
The School Tower
Brockwood's century-old castle-like tower is the home of the science labs. In this image we see the exterior walls of the tower’s spiral staircase. The crenellations at the top show the influence of Gothic architecture, which flourished during the high and late medieval period. Another nice detail are the dentils that wrap the exterior walls and match the dentils that are wrapped around the exterior walls of the Main House sitting and dining rooms. My favourite aspect of this tower is the colour of its red bricks and the contrast with the cream coloured building next to it.
Timber Post, Krishnamurti Centre
This timber post with braces is simply a functional aspect of the Krishnamurti Centre. The amber coloured wood has been well picked to complement the darker brown roof and the grey and red brickwork.
Krishnamurti Centre Roof
This image shows a section of the Krishnamurti Centre roof. In this photo I like the sense of direction that is created through the triangular sections of the roof that bring attention to the ball that is precariously placed at the top. The dormer windows break through the roof and disrupt the sense of direction.
School Courtyard
In this image of the Main House the double-hung windows drew my attention. The placement of the bottom right window is slightly off which creates a more interesting aesthetic. The photo was taken in the courtyard when coming from the walled vegetable garden. Windows look into the girl’s bathroom and a student’s room (East Wing), the reception and staff offices.
The Cloisters
We are facing towards the vegetable garden that is on the other side of the wall covered in ivy at the end of the brick path. The building to the right is the Cloisters sitting room, with the boys’ laundry and eco-kitchen, and the building to the left is named the Cloisters (boys' accommodation). These buildings are newer than most other buildings on the Brockwood grounds. They are both one-story brick structures flanking a brick walkway with a connecting roof over the entryways. The awning windows break the rectangular shape captured in the picture.
Wood Workshop
This interesting brick entry to the wood workshop has an elliptical or three-centred arch with octagonal brick ornaments on the ends and at the top of the pediment. It appears to be a 19th century invention. I find the ornate ironwork on the door curious but beautiful.
The big barn at Inwoods Small School
The big barn at Inwoods Small School. I’m very fond of this barn because it brings back wonderful childhood memories. This building was renovated by some Brockwood staff members and Inwoods parents. The brick foundation supports the weathered-wood clapboard siding and corrugated galvanized steel roofing. In this image I enjoy the darker brown casement windows that don’t match the white French doors, a beautiful contrast in colours.
Inwoods annex
The Inwoods annex is accommodation for mature students at Brockwood. It resembles a pre-war brick storage building, which it might be. The wearing red bricks are arranged such that each row of bricks, called course, consists of alternate bricks having their short sides (headers) and long sides (stretchers) facing outwards, with alternate courses being offset. This style of brick-laying is called Flemish bond. The basketball hoop that is fixed on the centre line of this small building is a modern version of an original peach basket that was used when the game was first invented.
The Art Barn
Upstairs in the Art Barn. This natural source of light is created by a narrow vaulted ceiling with what appears to be clerestory windows that bring outside light and fresh air into the inner space. The central windows have arched heads, and so the intersection of the two vaults creates what is known as a ‘groin vault’.
Main House
View of the Main House from outside the Assembly Hall. The wood-framed double hung windows look into Co-Principal Adrian Sydenham’s office on the ground level with staff accommodation on the upper level. This part of the Main House features simple painted bricks with slightly arched window openings.
Outside the ‘Quiet Room’
The exterior walls of this octagonal section of the Krishnamurti Centre cocoon an important room, the ‘Quiet Room’, seen here through the nested elliptical arched windows. The architect of this building, Keith Critchlow, designed the room following Krishnamurti’s instructions:

"There must be a room where you go to be quiet. This room should be used for that and not for anything else. It should be like a fountain filling the whole place. That room should be the central flame; it is like a furnace that heats the whole place. If you don't have that, the Centre becomes just a passage, people coming and going, work and activity."

A rubble stonewall, with flint stones as found in the local fields, is the infill between the brick window structures. I love the small details put into the building, such as the downspouts that are carefully placed in the centre of each of the connecting walls and the small lead flowers framing the top of the windows.