Sandal Magna Community Primary School / Sarah Wigglesworth Architects

© Mark Hadden Photography

Architects: Sarah Wigglesworth Architects
Locaiton: , England
Planning Supervisor: Nps North East
Main Contractor: Allenbuild North East
Structural Engineer: Techniker
Client: Wakefield Metropolitan District Council and NPS North East
Project Year: 2010
Project Area: 1,740 sqm
Photographs: Mark Hadden Photography

Sandal Magna Community Primary School in Wakefield, the first completed school by Sarah Wigglesworth Architects, welcomed its first intake of pupils and staff in October 2010. Designed as a flagship eco-school, the building is one of the most carbon efficient schools in the UK.

© Mark Hadden Photography

Sarah Wigglesworth Architects, in partnership with NPS Group, were appointed by Wakefield Council to design a replacement for the Victorian Sandal Magna Primary School, which had come to the end of its life. The new building accommodates 210 pupils aged between 5-11 years, alongside nursery provision. The school also contains a community room for adult education and other activities, and has been designed to permit expansion in the future.


The school’s design takes its cue from its vernacular surroundings, and is laid out as three parallel single story wings that reference the surrounding pattern of terraced houses and back streets. The red brick of those terraces is also used extensively throughout the school. Along the teaching block, sturdy ventilation stacks echo the rooflines of neighboring houses while, at the centre of the site, the school is crowned by a striking new bell tower evoking the tall chimneys of Wakefield’s industrial heritage.

© Mark Hadden Photography

The overall design, however, is highly contemporary. A range of cladding materials such as raw , weatherboarding and corrugated rainscreens is used to denote different uses within the school, and adds further interest to the sharp, angular geometries of the building. Inside the school, services and building elements such as ventilation, soundproofing, sprinklers and a rainwater harvesting system are all proudly visible. This is quite deliberate: part of the brief was to make the building a demonstrative tool to form part of the curriculum for learning about buildings and sustainability. Funding was secured from the former DCSF Standards Fund for a range of low carbon measures at the school. The sustainability features of the school include: completely natural ventilation, a ground source heat pump to provide heating, hot water and cooling, 100 sqm of photovoltaic solar panels to power the ground source heat pump, a masonry structure providing thermal mass throughout the classrooms, reuse of reclaimed bricks from the old school in retaining walls and garden features, and a set of allotments for pupils within the school grounds.

Site Plan

A key aim of the design was to produce a safe learning environment for the pupils. The flexible classroom design and “street” layout of the school encourages different numbers and age groups of children to meet and learn together, while the main circulation space between the classrooms, ICT and library spaces is an additional learning hub. The layout avoids hidden corners and blind spots, and careful thought has been given to landscaping to provide different types of outdoor play space including areas for learning, planting, quiet zones and games. Each classroom has direct access to the outdoor playgrounds and views of the surrounding landscape.

© Mark Hadden Photography

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Cite: "Sandal Magna Community Primary School / Sarah Wigglesworth Architects" 26 Aug 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 26 May 2015. <>
  • Archreviewer

    Lovely design!

  • Mark Hadden

    I was lucky to be the architect on this project and also photographer. A great project to be involved in.

  • katrina

    lovely design! i think the architect did a good job ,specialy the choice of materials, it is some how reflects the culture and the materials of the region. and i think the heat exchange and energy managment were one of architects concern in this project!!