Suitably reproached, GENE BRODIE, our education correspondent, has been set 100 lines: “I must not slag off dodgy-looking modern architecture”
Two years ago, an extension to a Thornton Heath primary school had its design described in the Croydon Sadvertiser as “an absolute abomination and a disgrace”.
This week, that same design has been declared as “the best new school in the world” by the internationally respected Architectural Review.
Many locals mistakenly believed that aliens had landed from Mars when the golden roofs of the Whitehorse Manor, part of a £4.5million upgrade of the buildings, were revealed looking like a vast spaceship plonked over the school two years ago.
In a poll of Inside Croydon‘s readers, 54 per cent indicated that the scale and glittering colour of the extension seemed out of keeping with the schools’ original, and listed, 120-year-old building. It was Croydon’s very own carbuncle. But we did feel a little sorry for Jolyon Roberts, one of the schools’ executive heads, who defended the transformational building work.
“We believe that there is no more lazy a stereotype than ‘all modern architecture is rubbish’,” Roberts told us at the time.
This week’s award for the design, therefore, will be a vindication for Roberts and the school staff. It will be interesting to see how it is reflected in the Sadvertiser, and whether they manage to recall how their report – based on the comments of one reader – had dismissed it so utterly.
The extension is the work of Hayhurst and Co. In the competition, Whitehorse Manor’s design beat rival submissions from Portugal, China and Afghanistan.
The judges praised what they called “the project’s material beauty and its spatial configuration”.
The extension to the Victorian school – which also won the school category of the Architects’ Journal Retrofit Awards in 2014 – provided a new nursery and seven new classrooms – all double glazed, acoustically designed and eco-friendly; there are also seven refurbished classrooms and an expanded hall.
There is a new admin block at the centre of the school, facilities for special educational needs pupils, and new cooking and serving facilities for school dinners.
The golden facade has replaced a 1950s concrete hall and kitchens built in 1981.
“It is a tribute to the architect and the design team that they have managed to build so much additional space without significantly enlarging the ‘footprint’ of the schools,” Roberts said.
And how did the judges gush. Sadie Morgan said, “The winner is a very beautiful project. They’ve looked at the narrative, the journey of the school child. I found the level of detail and critical thinking really impressive.” While critic Deyan Sudjic said, “It’s a wonderful piece of embroidery – somewhere that feels a good place to learn and go. It’s giving the young people the sense that education matters.”
“Very beautiful”. “Wonderful… embroidery”. Noted. But it still looks like an over-sized golden shed, though.
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