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CITY OF LONDON ACADEMY, SOUTH LONDON

BCI AWARDS - PRIME MINISTER'S BETTER PUBLIC BUILDING

For buildings and infrastructure projects of any size commissioned by or on behalf of central or local government or by a grant-aided organisation. Jointly sponsored by CABE (the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) and the OGC (Office of Government Commerce).

Unlike other academies, the City of London's dazzling new establishment in Bermondsey does not replace a failing school. In fact, it is both the first state secondary school to be commissioned by the City of London Corporation and one of the Corporation's most demanding projects, because of the legal obstacles that had to be overcome before construction could start.

The superb facility was delivered to time and on budget by the design and construction team and is an exemplar of very early involvement of the builder and final customer, partnering with a PPC2000 contract, use of a professional coach, and the 'get it done' approach of all team members.

The brief for the academy was established in 2001 by the Corporation with the London Borough of Southwark and DfES. In February 2002 the design-and-construct duo of Studio E and Willmott Dixon was appointed. The academy's designated principal was also brought into the team, playing a key role in development of the design.

The snag was over the chosen site - formerly railway sidings of the Bricklayers' Arms station that predated the rail terminus at London Bridge. An awkward parcel of land, it is split in two by a road viaduct and had long ago been designated a park. But its use had descended to that of a meeting place for drug addicts. The planning proposal to put a school on the site was subjected to a vigorous legal challenge. In the end this was settled by a judicial review which allowed the academy to proceed.

Construction began in January 2004. The tight space for the main building led to the choice of a five-storey structure. Steel was used for the frame for speed and exibility. A large atrium at the academy's heart brings in light, allows air circulation and sets the school apart from the status quo of secondary education buildings.

With the permanent structures in place on time by July 2005, the first pupils were able to move in at the beginning of the autumn term.

Applications for places now hugely outnumber the total number of pupils that can be accommodated, and all live within walking distance.

Client City of London Corporation Cost £23.53 million Principal designer Studio E Architects Engineer Dewhurst Macfarlane Contractor Willmott Dixon Construction

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