Architects: Jestico + Whiles – Alex Gordon
Location: London, England
Client: Media Arts and Science College
Structural engineer: Mouchel Parkman, Brian Bonnett
Landscaping: Place Design + Planning, Rupert Dehaene – Gold
Project manager: Mouchel Babcock Education, Thomas Baxter
Photographs: Tim Crocker
Stoke Newington School and Sixth Form was redeveloped as part of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. The client’s brief was to utilise the Hackney BSF programme funding to refurbish and expand the striking original building, in order to provide state of the art, inspirational spaces for learning, allowing the school to continue to thrive as an “Outstanding” educational provider. Other key priorities included resolving congested and confusing circulation; a secluded entrance; and accessibility problems that resulted from numerous changes of level across the site. The brief also included the provision of various new facilities such as a new centralised dining hall, and a dedicated block of teaching accommodation. As a media arts and science specialist school, creativity is at the core of its vision and this was carried through to the approach the school brought to the project.
The existing school building, completed in 1967, is a Brutalist building designed by the distinguished architects, Stillman and Eastwick Fields, and is generally highly regarded by architects today. Whilst not listed, the building is located on the edge of the Stoke Newington Church Street Conservation Area (which in itself contains a number of listed buildings), and as such, the local planning authority involved the Urban Design and Conservation department in the planning negotiations. The local planning authority was keen to ensure that the architectural language used throughout any new build additions remained sympathetic to the existing Brutalist design, in order to preserve and enhance the aesthetic achievement of the original building. Indeed, the design of the new entrance building and entrance forecourt were the central to the planning discussions.
The original building is comprised almost entirely of red brick, bush-hammered concrete and, prior to refurbishment, single glazed sliding sash timber windows. These poor performing windows have now been replaced with double glazed composite windows, closely following the sight lines of the originals. The same composite windows have also been used for the new entrance building, but the cladding used here consists of cortensteel. This robust and contemporary material was deliberately chosen to provide a sympathetic yet complimentary material to the brick and concrete of the original Brutalist building, and to act as a symbol for the schools regeneration at the front of the building Reclaimed materials from areas of demolition, such as oak balustrades, have been reused extensively in the refurbishment of the main building. To inject new life into old buildings is also one of the most environmentally responsible strategies that can be employed.
Jestico + Whiles became involved in the project at competitive bid stage in late 2006, but the local authority and school had been involved in the gestation of the Hackney BSF programme since 2005. Completion was achieved in June 2010, ready for the new 2010-2011 academic year, as planned.
Early investigations concluded that the school should be refurbished and extended, and not demolished and rebuilt. Considering the substantial size and accommodation of the existing school (which included a theatre, two multi-purpose gyms and a sports hall) it was not permissible for a new build school of this specialism and number of pupils, so the decision to refurbish and extend the building was relatively straightforward.
However, with the resultant 80% to 20% proportion of refurbishment versus new build, some difficult decisions had to be made with regards to the level of refurbishment, since unfortunately, the budget did not stretch so far as to cover the building in its entirety. As a result, window replacement was not possible to all areas (some double glazed windows were retained where these existed), and the Design and Technology department was untouched since it had recently benefited from refurbishment from separate funding. However, notwithstanding the budgetary constraints, the completed building is proving to be a real success story with pupils, staff, stakeholders, governors and parents alike.