Text description provided by the architects. Clapham Manor Primary School had become a victim of its own success; pupil numbers had grown, placing considerable pressure on successful delivery of curriculum within the restrictions of the original building. dRMM was asked to consider the provision of additional learning spaces within the site that would support both learning and play. The new wing is conceived as a freestanding addition that plugged into the Victorian Board School, allowing the school to work as a single entity.
The new intervention is pulled away from the flank wall to sit parallel with the neighbouring Odd Fellows Hall. The resultant interstitial space establishes a formal entrance into the school - a triple height transparent atrium that separates new and old. A glazed lift and stairs that scissor overhead reconcile 4 contemporary storeys within the height of 3 Victorian.
The architectural aspiration was to create a building that would sit shoulder to shoulder with two great brick exemplars. The façade is inspired by post war system-built schools, which utilised 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, inside and out.
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 brick colours inform the rich reds and yellows along Stonhouse Street. The colour spectrum shifts into greens as the building emerges on the playground side echoing the soft landscaping below, and finally into vibrant sky blues.
In addition to new classrooms, pupils benefit from spaces for performance, music, breakout learning and a medical room. Staff share a resource room, copy facilities, administration, and offices. The informal, social spaces that connect the classrooms are vibrant and stimulating, eliminating corridors and offering visual transparency.
The facade works doubly hard to define not only the exterior but also the interior. The vibrant coloured glass panels of the exterior are upholstered on the inside allowing opportunities for the display and presentation of pupils’ work. The dynamic quality of the triple aspect classrooms is further heightened by the composition of the views. Solid, fritted and clear panels at varying heights create amazing compositions of the urban landscape whilst being inclusive of all ages.