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The dynamic tension which has powered Hampshire architecture in recent years is very evident in the school at Colden Common, by Joe Collins. Collins' approach to design here is 'frill-free' and he is happy to have it described as rigorous.

The old school at Colden Common was destroyed by fire in 1995. Its replacement was to provide for 300 children, with scope for future expansion. 'Child- scaled' is generally a term of approval where school design is concerned, but, Collins argues, placing all the accommodation in a school under one roof leads to the imposition of a scale which can be uncomfortable. One of the most striking spaces at Colden Common is the large and lofty staff room.'Teachers need a place to escape,' says Collins. 'Why coop them in?'

The architecture of the new school is broadly in the Cullinan tradition, yet there are no 'frills' and the plan is a model of rigour, in tune with the flat, featureless site. (It is actually a development of an unbuilt project for a school at Locksheath, near Southampton.)

In total, nine classrooms extend along a broad central 'street,' the long arm of a 'T'. The pupils normally come into the school from the playground, via the external doors serving each classroom, but the 'street' (or 'concourse,' as Collins describes it) contains wcs, provided in the form of pods adjacent to the classrooms. These have staggered openings to the concourse - a meeting and socialising space containing the library and computer areas. The short arm of the 'T' contains the entrance for staff and visitors, with the hall on one side and the double-height staff room and music/drama room on the other, both wings clearly expressed externally.

The structural format of the building clearly reflects the plan: the great roof beams of the entrance wing traverse at right angles those of the classroom wing, which emerge from the front of the building to express its essential extendibility.

Clarity was clearly a high priority. Materials are used simply and logically. The external brickwork is simply painted white inside. There are generous sunscreens along the classroom wing but, from child-height, you can see the sky through them. Environmental comfort was another priority given serious consideration and so there are both manually operated fans and opening rooflights along the concourse. Structurally, the building is a pragmatic composite of laminated timber and steel columns and loadbearing masonry.

The rigour impresses, but the quality of delight found in more fanciful Hampshire schools is not absent. This is a solid and practical building, built to last and eschewing superfluous gestures, but is none the worse for that.




Hampshire County Council architects department: Joe Collins


RJ Watkinson & Associates: Mike Wharf


hcc: Martin Gregory (qs), Alan Male (mechanical), Steven Perry (electrical)


Barnes & Elliott


hcc: Mike Rothery


hcc: Peter Simpson

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