Education In A Modern World

Victorian education reform: School interiors

Plan of the first floor and mezzanine of Oban Street Board School, London

Plan of the first floor and mezzanine of Oban Street Board School, London
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Designer: Edward Robert Robson
© British Architectural Library, RIBA 


With the surge of school building in the late 19th century, architects produced inventive interiors to satisfy the needs of large student enrolments. In keeping with Victorian values, boys and girls had separate classrooms and separate circulation. Sliding partitions broke down larger classrooms, a provision for flexible space more closely associated with Modernism than the Victorian age. These multi-purpose, open-plan halls became common practice in schools by the close of the 19th century.

'The Builder', a popular weekly journal, published since 1843, published this school design by E R Robson for the School Board for London in 24 September 1881. Such journals were available to architects throughout Britain, spreading ideas for progressive school design through rich engravings and text. However, similarities in plan did not mean schools were homogeneous in appearance. Eclectic facades abounded in a variety of styles, Birmingham preferred Gothic while London built in the Queen Anne style, but certain principles remained constant: basic and standard education for all.

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