Evelyn Grace Academy Brixton, London School Building, Architect, Architecture Project
Evelyn Grace Academy, London : Brixton School
Brixton Academic Development on Shakespeare Road design by Zaha Hadid Architects
1 Oct 2011
Stirling Prize Winner, 1 October 2011
RIBA Award winner, 19 May 2011
Address: 255 Shakespeare Rd, London SE24 0QN
Phone:020 7737 9520
19 Oct 2010
Evelyn Grace Academy Brixton
New South London school building designed by Zaha Hadid Architects
Photographs: Luke Hayes
The Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton, London Borough of Lambeth, broadens not only the educational diversity of this active and historical part of London but also augments the built environment in a predominantly residential area. This Academy presents itself as an open, transparent and welcoming addition to the community’s local urban regeneration process.
The strategic location of the site within two main residential arteries naturally lends the built form to be coherent in formation. The building assumes a strong urban character and identity which is legible to both the local and neighbouring zones.It offers a learning environment that is spatially reassuring thereby being able to engage the students actively. The design of the building, proffers that, which contemporary architecture can, to create a healthy atmosphere as a milieu for progressive teaching routines.
In keeping with the educational ideology of ‘schools-within-schools’ the design is to creates natural segregation patterns nested within highly functional spaces which give each of the four smaller schools a distinct identity, both internally and externally. These spaces present generous environs with maximum levels of natural light, ventilation and understated but durable textures.
The collective spaces – shared by all the schools – are planned to encourage social communication within a distinct hierarchy of natural aggregation nodes which weave together the extensive accommodation schedule. Similarly, the external shared spaces, in order to generate a setting that encourages interaction, are treated in a manner of layering creating informal social and teaching spaces at various levels based on the convergence of multiple functions.
Client: Absolute Return for Kids – ARK
Area: 10,000 sqm approx.
Zaha Hadid Architects’ first completed building in England
The Evelyn Grace Academy serves Coldharbour Ward which apparently has the highest rate of violent crime in Europe, reports The Observer. Although the school opened on 13th September 2010 journalists have only been allowed access in the last few days.
Playgrounds and sports pitches occupy the spaces between the Evelyn Grace Academy building and the streets on either side, with a bright red 100m running track stretching from one side to the other, the building bridging it at half way. As a proclamation of alertness to dozy morning arrivals, the track is hard to beat.
More oblique lines stride across the elevations, veering into curves where the building takes corner, and helping mark out the four “small schools”. Inside, the Evelyn Grace Academy has a basically simple plan, with classrooms on either side of broad corridors, but rendered complex by the architects’ irregular geometries and double-height halls serving the small schools at different levels.
The aims of the school and of the architects are not a perfect fit. Zaha Hadid’s architecture communicates the seriousness and high ambition that Walker claims for Evelyn Grace Academy, but it expresses the intimacy of the “small schools” less well. There’s also a conflict between the flying angles and the rectangular shapes that classroom planning and economic construction tend to favour. In places it looks like a standard gridded building to which exotic geometries have been cosmetically applied.
What the Evelyn Grace Academy building does best is communicate to pupils that “someone is valuing them”. It is palpably exceptional, adult and unpatronising. You can tell that dedicated people have tried hard to do something out of the ordinary. It also creates moments of adventure and intrigue, such as the unexpected overlapping of spaces, which counter the potential boredom of big schools.
The truth is that the Evelyn Grace Academy is a one-off from an age that has already passed, when the City of London’s firestorm of wealth threw off sparks of philanthropy to less lucky districts a few miles distant. It is not something that is repeatable for hundreds of new schools.
Location: 255 Shakespeare Road, just east of Brixton centre
The Evelyn Grace Academy building plot is between Shakespeare Road and Loughborough Park, off Coldharbour Lane
Evelyn Grace Academy Brixton : further information on the Stirling Prize Winner in 2011
Location: 255 Shakespeare Road, London, England, UK
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Evelyn Grace Academy context to north – Coldharbour Lane housing, Brixton:
photograph © Adrian Welch
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