Westminster Academy at The Naim Dangoor CentreEdit profile
The Westminster Academy is a new secondary school in West London, housing 1175 pupils and 128 staff members. The sponsor, Exilarch Foundation and the head, Alison Banks, had a powerful vision of learning for the school that embraces the latest thinking in education and the ideals of the RSA Curriculum of the 21st century. The driving idea was to create a sustainable learning environment that inspired creativity and enabled connectivity and flexibility. This approach seeks to create a completely different learning environment – one that raises expectations in terms of what this might mean in the 21st century.
In response to a clear and progressive brief, the architect created a building that draws upon the extensive and varied experience of their practice in a range of sectors. The new school creates an environment where the core values of enterprise, global citizenship and communication can be delivered through a flexible and responsive learning framework that gives pupils individual responsibility for their education and encourages team working by both staff and pupils. The Academy is located in a gritty urban context, dominated by the Westway, 1960s tower blocks and the Harrow Road. The site is also crossed by a public right of way and houses several public sports pitches. The physical complexities of the site are matched by the cultural and social challenges of working in one of the poorest areas in London where 95% of students are bilingual.
The aspiration was to create a new civic landmark in which the pupils, staff and wider community felt a sense of pride. The school is a 5-storey building located along one edge of the site lining the Harrow Road housing all facilities except the sports hall separated to allow for year round community use. The simple form of the school, responding to the need for a fully sealed building, has a bold, expressive façade stratified into large panels of glazing, vibrantly coloured terracotta tiles in green and yellow and a series of illuminated screens. These layers, relating to the functions inside, create a dramatic building by day that transforms into a glowing beacon at night. The rear elevation facing the Westway continues this stratification with deep, cantilevered balconies overlooking the terraced landscape. As well as providing sheltered outdoor spaces on all levels, these balconies act as the primary means of escape for the classrooms and therefore allow the central atrium to be totally open.