Clapham Manor Primary School

Clapham Manor Primary School

Architect: dRMM
Copyright: Jonas Lencer  

This jewel-like project is a freestanding addition to a 19th Century Board School which, in the words of the designers, 'plugs into' the existing building allowing the school to work as a single entity. 

The multi-coloured glass cladding is the first thing which strikes you, but this is no straightforward glass box. The panels, although all glazed externally, internally can be transparent, translucent or opaque. As well as greatly enhancing the energy performance of the building, this arrangement allows for teachers to pin up work on the coloured pin-board lining panels. It also adds a degree of privacy. 

The form of the building is a simple rectangle occupying the gap between two existing buildings, set out diagonally to the existing school, creating a transparent 'atrium' that separates old and new.

There is an exciting tension here which reinforces the conceptual idea and the sense of movement through the shared circulation space. It also dramatically marks the childrens' and separate visitors’ entrances from a small playground. The new form makes some interesting external spaces which have been successfully exploited by the architects as pocket gardens; the angled geometry also provides a very successful and secure entry sequence with a visitors’ holding point, a highly visible school office and reception.

The 'newness' and modernity of the proposal has a non-institutional lightness of touch to it and there are hints of post-war system buildings and an unashamed conviction in technology. The facade system allows good light and views at different heights for children and adults and the use of the coloured panels in what one commentator has called 'boisterous polychromy' provides the building with a singular identity.

Internally there are no corridors and one either moves through the adjoining spaces or uses the central gallery off the main lift and stair element to access the classrooms. All the internal spaces are finished to a very high standard with the use of perforated acoustic panelling (in timber for walls and a fibre boards for the ceilings) acting as a unifying surface throughout.

Overall the project provides an extremely inventive and uplifting example of what the next generation of school buildings could be, it avoids generic solutions and looks to use the very best contemporary thinking about what makes a good education environment. It is also clearly a result of a positive collaboration between the architects, their teams and a strong headmaster with a very clear educational vision.

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