Clapham Manor Primary School
Clapham Manor Primary School had become a victim of its own success, having grown from a one- to two-form entry, placing considerable pressure on successful delivery of curriculum within the restrictions of the original Victorian Board School building. Yet despite the physical constraints, the school has excelled under the leadership of head teacher Brian Hazell, achieving Ofsted Outstanding School Status. The driver for this project has been to improve the pupils’ experience by providing facilities that support both learning and play.

dRMM was asked by London Borough of Lambeth to consider the provision of additional learning spaces within the site. In consultation with the local authority and school community, a masterplan to restructure the school was developed. Through these discussions, it became apparent that the school was successful because everything was ‘under one roof’. The new wing was therefore conceived as a freestanding addition that plugged into the Board School, allowing the school to work efficiently and holistically as a single entity.

The extension forms phase ‘1’ of the project, comprising additional learning spaces, performance space, an organisational hub, formal entrance and improved access whilst minimising the loss of external play space. Phase ‘2’ will be the remodelling of the Board School in order to bring all classrooms up to DCSF space standards.

The first move: to locate the wing within what was the most constrained, under-utilised portion of the site - a former caretakers’ house and awkward 60’s extension. The new intervention is pulled away from the flank wall to sit parallel with the neighbouring Grade II Listed Odd Fellows Hall. The resultant interstitial space establishes a formal entrance into the school, improving security by acting as an organisational hub for access to the entire premises. This new entrance from pedestrian Stonhouse Street provides safer access for children and the local community also benefit from the feeling of greater safety as the building affords improved passive surveillance along the street. Pupils enter a triple height transparent atrium that separates new and old. Stairs that scissor overhead and a glazed lift reconcile the four contemporary storeys that have been created within the height of three Victorian storeys.

The architectural aspiration was to create a building that would sit shoulder to shoulder with the two great brick exemplars but not be subservient. The conservation officer was supportive of a contemporary intervention provided it was of the highest standard. The façade is inspired by post war system-built schools, which utilised the benefits of curtain walling to create bright and airy teaching spaces. The formal grid that typically defines curtain walling is replaced by a random grid to provide an expression appropriate for a primary school, both inside and out. Compositionally it would be difficult to reconcile the difference between the window and sill heights of the two existing buildings. Avoiding a compositional dialog allows the building to create its own expression.

The building appears without scale as the façade conceals clues to storey heights. It is contextualised through colour rather than composition. The façade is a polychromatic loop of colour that shifts as it moves around the building. The contextual colours of the Board School and the Odd Fellows Hall inform the rich reds and yellows along Stonhouse Street. The colour spectrum shifts into greens along the north elevation as the building emerges on the playground side echoing the soft landscaping below, and finally into vibrant sky blues before returning into the gap between the two buildings.

In delivering an education programme, this modest scale extension packs a number of punches. As well as new classrooms, students benefit from spaces for performance/dance, music practice, breakout learning, informal/ social and a medical room. Staff share a resource room, copy facilities, administration, and there are offices for the head teacher and facilities and premises manager. The community may enjoy the benefits of using the facilities, extending the agenda of lifelong learning. Throughout the building details have been incorporated that appeal to the senses – texture, light, views, colour. Whether displaying the mechanism of the passenger lift, or revealing clear separation of the differently aged buildings, the building offers day-to-day educational benefit. The new spaces acknowledge and celebrate the different user requirements, for example external opening vents and internal vision panels are set at varying heights. In contrast to the vibrant colours of the exterior, the classroom colours are toned down to muted hues that allow calm teaching spaces. The internal façade is lined in pinboard so that teachers can readily display pupils’ work.

Acoustics, ventilation, and light levels have all been designed to optimise learning and to complement the range of spaces offered by the Board School. The informal, social spaces that connect the classrooms are vibrant and stimulating, eliminating corridors and offering visual transparency to improve passive surveillance. Soft play and informal spaces for quiet reading and conversation are situated around the new extension, as well as cycle storage.

This polychromatic extension inserted into a tight urban context offers the school a new identity, much-needed learning spaces and an organisational hub, while maximising play space.

Media

16 photos and 4 drawings

Building Activity

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