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RIBA Awards 2013: Schools

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The number of RIBA National Awards for schools is up by more than 150 per cent on last year, while the regional tally is much the same, with one more project

There’s eye candy and appealing colour aplenty. ADP’s Jesmond Gardens Primary School, Hartlepool, will bring smiles to the faces of advocates of innovative planning and open learning areas and is distinguished by its calm assurance and textured surfaces. Hayhurst and Co’s Hayes Primary School is also distinctive for its unique internal design language. Stephenson:ISA Studio’s Chetham’s Music School in Manchester, with custom brickwork, is almost too grand. Others, notably Capita Symonds’ St Silas Church of England Primary School and Meadowcroft Griffin’s Lauriston School are spatially ingenious responses to demanding sites. St Alban’s Academy in Birmingham by dRMM sports an internal street and boldly coloured external cladding.

Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester, stephenson:Isa Studio

Chethams School of Music 3 Daniel Hopkinson

This is a highly thoughtful and beautifully crafted new addition to the medieval school campus. It is refreshing to see an original and well detailed study in brick (AJ 13.12.12) for an important civic building in Manchester, a city traditionally built of the material. The interior of light, texture and warmth continues to deliver. The only regret is the empty shell that awaits funding for the Main Auditorium; without it in operation, the building rests impatiently as a glorious musical instrument that is yet to be played.

Lauriston School, Hackney, London E9, Meadowcroft Griffin Architects


This project (AJ 26.05.11) doubled the size of a 1970s school on the same tight site while keeping the existing school in operation during construction. To maximise the playground area, the classroom block was raised on a bridge among the trees, increasing levels of daylight, ventilation and views, creating an undercroft playspace the size of a sports hall. Working with the schoolchildren and engaging with local artists and suppliers, the architect has developed innovative design solutions throughout the project.

Montpelier Community Nursery, London N19, ay-architects


The school takes the form of a pavilion opening on to a part-sheltered play area with a park beyond (AJ 21.03.13). The selection of materials is a key part of the scheme’s success. The black-stained Siberian larch sits inconspicuously in the treescape and contrasts with the whitewashed internal woodwork, allowing the playful objects to come to life. Simple decisions and well-controlled details with seamless links to the outer play area and garden have made for an all-encompassing education experience.

Kingswood Academy, Kingston upon Hull, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris


This new BSF school acts as a visual and intellectual beacon in the flatlands of east Yorkshire, providing learning opportunities for the whole community.Taking as its reference the multi-storey Victorian schools that towered over their neighbourhoods, the external form is bold yet simple and the cladding is practical and sharp, reflecting light dramatically. Internally the stars are the art rooms, with their showcase on to the internal street, denoting the school’s specialism in visual and performing arts.

St Alban’s Academy, Birmingham, dRMM


This new building for St Alban’s Academy (AJ 29.11.12) was one of the last to be commissioned under the BSF programme. The simple form of the building sits confidently on the site, with the articulation of the cladding working well with the nearby industrial buildings. The entrance leads directly to a full-height, unheated ‘street’ running the length of the building. To one side, the classrooms are grouped together in the two key stages, each of which is intended to feel like a school in its own right.

Hayes Primary School, Croydon, Hayhurst and Co


On a tight budget the architect has created a building with clear organisation and strong identity. The building’s loggia-like entrance sets the tone for the project. Internally, a cross-laminated timber wall separates classrooms from the main corridor and allows for storage, seating and study. It also creates a flexible, animated backdrop to classroom activities. The formation of an inner courtyard provides the school with a vibrant heart, allowing a sense of openness to pervade the building.

Jesmond Gardens Primary School, Hartlepool, ADP


The headmistress’ ambition to turn around a school through clever use of design and flexible pedagogy has been well interpreted by ADP. There is not one traditional classroom; lessons take place in open-plan circular spaces, separated only by acoustic curtains. All the spaces are seamlessly integrated. The focus is on the flow of spaces, culminating in the ‘Heart’ - a crossroads in the plan to encourage engagement between children and teachers.

St Silas Church Of England Primary School, Blackburn, Capita Symonds Architecture


This spirited and colourful new intervention in the midst of Blackburn’s terraces, allows views in through its windows, doors and playgrounds to embrace and welcome the children and parents of its surrounding community. Clad in a glass coat of many subtle colours the school (AJ 29.11.12) is a beacon and a thing of wonder to its young users. On every wall from the library to the canteen, the building perfectly symbolises to the outside world the energy and commitment of staff and pupils.

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