What to do: old ‘60’s wreck of a school; building that needs updating? You cover over its central courtyard with inflated pillows and locate a new school hall for 1000 students right at the heart, crossing the court with a new bridge to promote better flows. The outcome is an iconic gesture that has them standing in the aisles.
The architects tell us that the scheme is of national importance: “The proposal exploits the potential of the existing building, and superimposes a vast, new transparent roof over the internal courtyard. This has facilitated new dining facilities, assembly and performance spaces, improved circulation, and social activities”.
But does the emperor have real clothes? It was in the Hawthorne experiments of the 1920’s that behaviourists first found out that the implied flattery in attention will ensure an increase in productivity regardless of whether physical conditions are made better or worse.
Other London schools worthy of the specialist’s interest include:
• Jubilee Primary; Tulse Hill, SW2; Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, 2002. (It has a special emphasis on hearing impaired learning.)
• Kings Avenue School, Kings Avenue, SW4; Shepheard Epstein Hunter, 2002.
In addition, there is Foster’s Business Academy Bexley, Yarnton Way, Erith (east of Greenwich); Foster & Partners, 2003.. . but being a business, they don’t like visitors!
Foster has a similar academy school in north London: Capital City Academy (below), Doyle Gardens, NW10; Foster & Partners, 2003, (Willesden Green tube).
Stealth House. What doesn’t show externally is the clever mix of new building work appropriating parts of the house formerly here. Otherwise, this is a good example of new work with vaguely contexturalist overtones.
(But what is it about Daarth Vader/ stealth planes and architectural fashions from Tadao Ando to Robert Dye? Is the stealth in the strategy of realisation, a cunning design, the styling? 122 Grove Lane, SE5; Robert Dye Associates, 2004; Rail:
This band stand (Crystal Palace, SE26; Ian 8 Ritchie Architects, 1997) is one of the better examples of architectural design in London – a witty, considered exercise in using Corten steel to blend the accommodation and protective / sound reflecting structure of this moated, summer band ‘platform’ into the landscaping of the park. It is redolent with C18 landscaping values and also references to Richard Serra’s work, but it has an almost abstract quality, as if Ritchie had produced the simplest diagram possible and built it (a diagram for a presentational platform, protected against vandals, with massive, built-in electronic acoustic
support, principally from two speaker towers at either side of the platform). It is at once sculptural and practical, heroic and intimate. But try and see it on a summer’s day, when a band is playing, not in a grey London winter.