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Architecture Initiative to transform ‘icon of neglect’ into new school

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Architecture Initiative has released images of its £30 million transformation of a former Royal Mail sorting office in Northampton into a new school

The London practice, founded in 2012, claims the Northampton International Academy sets a benchmark for future mixed-use developments centred around education.

The building on Barrack Road, which has been largely vacant following a fire in 2003, lies on the edge of the town centre in an area in need of more school places.

The architects say the completed scheme will provide ‘state-of-the-art’ facilities for 1,500 secondary school pupils, 300 sixth form students and 420 primary school children, while being designed in such a way so as to also provide opportunities for future community facilities, cafés, office space, a private nursery or a gym.

Matt Goodwin, managing director at Architecture Initiative, said: ‘We believe in the power of design to create learning spaces that will inspire the next generation. Projects such as this academy demonstrate how we can regenerate entire areas and increase local prosperity through a considered, commercial approach.’

The refurbishment will see new windows added to the outer shell to bring natural light into the building, while a five-court sports hall will fill the existing rooftop courtyard. A new public plaza is designed to emphasise a ‘sense of openness’ and encourage staff, students and members of the local community to interact.

The practice has collaborated on the project with the Education Funding Agency, an executive agency sponsored by the Department for Education that manages £54 billion of funding annually to support state-provided education, and with Northamptonshire County Council. Re-using the existing Brutalist building, the scheme will deliver 2,220 school places for less than £1,600 per pupil, which the practice claims is cheaper than a typical new-build school.

Northamptonshire County Council cabinet member for education councillor Matt Golby said: ‘This a fantastic opportunity for us to take a building that is a liability to the local area, an icon of neglect and abandonment, and make it iconic for positive and aspirational reasons.

‘The school will not only alleviate pressure on school places, which is a growing challenge in Northampton, but give us scope and space to be really innovative and creative with its design, especially in the areas of creative arts and design technology, utilising the double-height spaces in the building.’

Work started on site in August and is expected to be completed by September 2017.

ai nia 8 theatre

ai nia 8 theatre

Project data

Location Northampton
Type of project Mixed use, including a secondary school, primary school, sixth form, commercial and community facilities
Client Northamptonshire County Council
Architect Architecture Initiative
Landscape architect Plincke
Structural engineer Mace
M&E consultant Mott McDonald
Quantity surveyor Mace
Main contractor Vinci Construction
Funding Education Funding Agency
Start on site date August 2016
Completion date September 2017
Contract duration 18 months
Gross internal floor area 20,000m²
Procurement Standard contract
Total cost £30 million 

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