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Penoyre & Prasad unwraps UCL Academy

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[FIRST LOOK + PLANS + DATA] Penoyre & Prasad’s £26 milllion UCL Academy officially opens next week

The Building Schools for the Future (BSF) project, which shares the site with the £19 million Swiss Cottage Special School, will be formally unveiled by Andrew Adonis, the former education minister, next Tuesday (19 March).

The UCL-sponsored academy for 1,150 pupils was completed as a sample school approved to proceed following cancellation of the remainder of Camden’s BSF programme in July 2010.


Occupying the corner of the plot, the six-storey, 10,756m² building curves around a south facing outdoor area that acts as a circulation space and provides access to the school’s five ‘households’. Roof terraces are placed ontop of the block to give additional learning and social space on the tight site.

Geraldine Davies, UCL Principal, said: ‘The response from students, parents and staff has been amazing. The care taken to make sure the building has been designed with learning in mind, is immediately obvious to everyone who comes in.’

Ground floor plan

Ground floor plan

Architect’s view

Mark Rowe, partner, Penoyre & Prasad

On one level I think it’s easy to dismiss this project as the high specification watermark of the defunct BSF process, however most of the key moves – whether urban, architectural or educational – would be equally valid in the new constrained procurement landscape. In fact the tonal precast cladding, which we think gives the building such a sense of civic presence as well as projecting the internal organisation of the school, has turned out to be so cost effective that we’re exploring its use in several of our current projects.

We always wanted the building to have that material gravitas, frequently lacking in contemporary public buildings, to reflect the boldness of it’s form - particularly given the status of it’s architectural neighbours.

Project data

Start on site January 2011
Date of completion January 2013
Gross internal floor area 10,756m²
Total cost £26,295,416.65
Form of contract PFI Project Agreement, delivered through a Special Purpose Vehicle (Camden BSF SPV Ltd).
Client London Borough of Camden, in partnership with Academy sponsors UCL.
Architect Penoyre & Prasad
Landscape architect Grants Associates
Structural engineer Buro Happold
M&E engineer Buro Happold
Quantity surveyor BAM Construction
Main contractor BAM Construction UK
Client design adviser SCABAL
Technical advisers Navigant Consulting

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