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Institutional design

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To passers-by, Fleetwood School in Stoke Newington must appear to be a typical 1880s Victorian institutional building; but internally Julian Cowie Architects and developer London Wharf have brought about a metamorphosis. Fleetwood is yet another success story of a redundant, unloved building being converted into highly-sought-after apartments.

In 1917, two large additional blocks were inserted into the angles formed by the original main wings of the school, one of which presents a bay to the busy junction between Rectory Road and Northwold Road. The new floor levels were never aligned and the internal circulation retains an entertaining switchback character. But all traces of Victorian educational severity have vanished.

The first impression of the building is one of warmth and comfort. This is even before you have passed through the glazed entrance, attracted by uplighters washing over the warm red brickwork (sandblasted at the outset of the project), carpeted stairs and landings, and ash doors.

Each of the 13 flats in the main school building is different, although they all occupy one of the classroom spaces and share common elements: a double height area, an enclosed kitchen and bathroom core, and a mezzanine (or two) above the service core, containing a bedroom. The main floors are in timber, walls have retained plasterwork at lower levels and window surrounds, but for the most part are bare brickwork; iron ceiling beams are painted and exposed and all paintwork is white. The three flats visited give an idea of the variation that Julian Cowie has achieved by inventive manipulation of these shared features.

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