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‘Plastic bubble’ in Preston among 12 new post-war schools listings

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Patty Hopkins’ High-Tech Fleet Infants School in Hampshire (1985) and a plastic ‘bubble’ at Kennington Primary School in Preston (1974) designed by Lancashire County Council Architects’ Department have been handed Grade II listings

The recently renamed Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced today (16 October) it had given statutory heritage protection to 12 post-war schools following an in-depth thematic investigation into the building type by Historic England. 

According to the government’s heritage watchdog, post-war Britain was ’an innovative period in school design with school building driven by the ‘baby boom’, the raising of the school leaving age, planned new towns and estates and the reconstruction of bomb-damaged buildings.’

The scare resources available were mainly concentrated on primary schools for the immediate post-war baby boom with the majority of secondary schools constructed after 1955.

In considering the schools for listing, Historic England looked at how well the schools illustrated innovative architectural design, their construction, materials and artistic interest, extent of survival and ’how the design reflected changes in educational thinking of the period’.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England said: ‘[These] impressive and diverse designs express imaginatively the new approaches to education in the post-war period. Careful and innovative use of materials distinguish the buildings and reflect the investment at the time’.

Other recent thematic building assessments by the heritage organisation include its study into the ‘most significant examples’ of the Postmodern movement and a tranche of listings covering post-war office buildings constructed between 1964 and 1984 (see AJ 28.01.15).

Full listing citations

Fleet Infants School, Velmead Road, Fleet, Hampshire

Fleet Infants School was designed in 1984-5 by important high-tech architects Michael Hopkins and Partners under Patty Hopkins for Hampshire County Council. It stands out as a high-tech, cost-effective solution for a design for a school which provided a light, airy and adaptable working space. The school was their first completed building to combine a light-weight steel frame with Teflon-coated awnings. The school was designed and built in collaboration with the structural engineer Ted Happold, an innovator in lightweight construction techniques. The building has an inventive and accomplished design, which is well-planned and little-altered. The blue cladding is complemented by the blue Teflon-coated canopies which provide shade on the south facing sides of the building and shelter on the north.

Fleet Infants School, Fleet, Hampshire (1984-5) by Michael Hopkins and Partners under Patty Hopkins for Hampshire County Council

Fleet Infants School, Fleet, Hampshire (1984-5) by Michael Hopkins and Partners under Patty Hopkins for Hampshire County Council

Fleet Infants School, Fleet, Hampshire (1984-5) by Michael Hopkins and Partners under Patty Hopkins for Hampshire County Council

Springwood Junior School (1981-2), Springwood Avenue, Waterlooville, Hampshire and Bosmere Junior School (1982-3), South Street, Havant, Hampshire (previously Bosmere Middle School)

Both schools were built by Hampshire County Council Architect’s Department under Sir Colin Stansfield Smith. Springwood Junior School stands out for its eccentric design as one of Hampshire’s ‘barn’ schools. They were categorised by a single, wide roof which provide a variety of spaces to allow for different types of activity and learning and each classroom has its own access into the grounds. The school has been little altered since its construction and the earthy palette of brick, tile and timber brings warmth to its interior.

Bosmere Junior School is little-altered and has a sophisticated layout with a variety of spaces. The use of traditional materials including brick, timber-frame and pitched slate roofs is combined with intricate sectional planning and generous glazing. The interior, with its split levels, exposed brick and timber finishes and boldly painted metalwork adds interest as well as the concept of its indoor street with frosted orbs acting as internal street-lights.

Bosmere Junior School, Havant, Hampshire (1982-83) by Hampshire County Council Architect’s Department under Colin Stansfield Smith

Bosmere Junior School, Havant, Hampshire (1982-83) by Hampshire County Council Architect’s Department under Colin Stansfield Smith

Bosmere Junior School, Havant, Hampshire (1982-83) by Hampshire County Council Architect’s Department under Colin Stansfield Smith

Vanessa Nursery School, Cathnor Road, Shepherds Bush, London

Vanessa Nursery School, designed and built in 1970-2, is highly unusual for its bespoke collaborative design and approach to nursery education by an education trust established by the actress Vanessa Redgrave and the local education authority. It was designed by leading firm Fitch and Co and represents an infusion of pop architecture with product design principles to create a reassuring, welcoming space for nursery age children. The use of brightly-coloured Glass Reinforced Plastic pods in red and cream is relatively early for this technology and is forward-thinking for an educational building at this time.

Vanessa Nursery School, Shepherds Bush, London. Credit: Geraint Franklin, Historic England

Vanessa Nursery School, Shepherds Bush, London. Credit: Geraint Franklin, Historic England

Source: Geraint Franklin, Historic England

Vanessa Nursery School, Shepherds Bush, London (1970-2) by Fitch and Co

Plastic Classroom at Kennington Primary School, Kennington Road, Fulwood, Preston, Lancashire

The highly innovative plastic classroom nicknamed ‘the bubble,’ was built in 1973-4 to designs by the Lancashire County Council Architects’ Department under Roger Booth. It was designed as a prototype for a system of pre-fabricated mass production of schools by the council. It is based on self-supporting glass fibre-reinforced plastic panels and makes early use of computer-aided design to produce the complex geometrical designs needed for rigidity. It also has educational interest as the look of the classroom reflects ‘teaching in the round’ with freedom of movement and fluid arrangements of space to engage pupils.

Plastic Classroom at Kennington Primary School, Kennington Road, Fulwood, Preston, Lancashire (1973-4) to designs by the Lancashire County Council Architects’ Department under Roger Booth.

Plastic Classroom at Kennington Primary School, Kennington Road, Fulwood, Preston, Lancashire (1973-4) to designs by the Lancashire County Council Architects’ Department under Roger Booth.

Plastic Classroom at Kennington Primary School, Kennington Road, Fulwood, Preston, Lancashire (1973-4) to designs by the Lancashire County Council Architects’ Department under Roger Booth.

Archbishop Temple School, St Vincent’s Road, Fulwood, Preston, Lancashire (previously William Temple School)

Archbishop Temple School was built in 1964-6 to the designs of important post-war architectural practice, Building Design Partnership. It is a bold and complex group of buildings stepping down a hillside with each block having its own design and identity and expressive timberwork. The interior is little-altered and reflects design features aimed to stimulate learning. For example, the assembly hall has a striking sculptural ceiling and the chapel is comprised of an exposed timber frame structure which rises up to a circular light. There is also an abstract stained-glass window in the main entrance by the renowned artist and sculptor William Mitchell.

Archbishop Temple School, St Vincent’s Road, Fulwood, Preston, Lancashire (1964-6) by Building Design Partnership

Archbishop Temple School, St Vincent’s Road, Fulwood, Preston, Lancashire (1964-6) by Building Design Partnership

Source: Historic England, Elain Harwood

Archbishop Temple School, St Vincent’s Road, Fulwood, Preston, Lancashire (1964-6) by Building Design Partnership

St Olave’s Grammar School, Goddington Lane, Orpington, Kent

St Olave’s Grammar School is an ambitious and creative design by renowned architecture firm Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall and Partners (RMJM). Built in 1966-7, its combination of careful and generous planning around open quads gives it a collegiate quality. This puts it on a par with further education buildings of the period such as York University also designed by RMJM. The school has unusual features such as the outdoor amphitheatre, the pentagonal chapel sited in front of and over the main entrance, five courts and an impressive double-height Great Hall which functions as an assembly hall, dining room, theatre and concert hall.

St Olave's Grammar School, Orpington, Kent by RMJM

St Olave’s Grammar School, Orpington, Kent by RMJM

Source: Historic England Archive

St Olave’s Grammar School, Orpington, Kent by RMJM

Richmond Primary School, Stoke Lane, Hinkley, Leicestershire (previously Middlefield School) and Wreake Valley Academy, Parkstone Road, Syston, Leicester, Leicestershire

Richmond Primary School was built in 1968-70 to the designs of Leicestershire County Council’s Architects’ Department. The school expresses these new ideas through its distinctive circular plan with the library at the centre. A striking feature is the side-lining of the hall which is attached via a linking corridor to the circular teaching building. The school also follows a top-lit plan instead of having large areas of glazing from the sides which was a significant development in Leicestershire school planning.

Wreake Valley Community College (now Academy) was commissioned by Leicestershire County Council and built in 1967-71 to designs by Gollins, Melvin, Ward and Partners (GMW). It is the most architecturally striking of the new Leicestershire colleges built by GMW. Built on a 50 acre site and designed to house 1440 pupils, it was planned with both adult and youth facilities to serve the whole community. It is a huge sculptural three-storey school, with a central auditorium and library at its heart.

These two schools in Leicestershire are important examples of the Leicestershire Plan, which was devised in 1957 to encourage self-discovery and informal group working rather than rote learning.  

Wreake Valley Academy, Syston, Leicestershire - commissioned by Leicestershire County Council and built in 1967-71 to designs by Gollins, Melvin, Ward

Wreake Valley Academy, Syston, Leicestershire - commissioned by Leicestershire County Council and built in 1967-71 to designs by Gollins, Melvin, Ward

Wreake Valley Academy, Syston, Leicestershire - commissioned by Leicestershire County Council and built in 1967-71 to designs by Gollins, Melvin, Ward

Hopton Church of England Primary School, Thelnetham Road, Hopton, Suffolk

Hopton Church of England Primary School was built to the designs of West Suffolk County Council’s forward-looking Architects’ Department and opened in 1973. The design of the school combines a prefabricated building system with bespoke external and internal detailing such as distinctive brickwork corner ‘turrets.’ Together, these form a distinctive new-build composition strongly representative of post-war public sector development considerations such as speed and having a tight budget. The teaching areas of the school are arranged around a semi-enclosed central hall; a common plan in post-war primary schools in Suffolk.

Hopton Church of England Primary School, Hopton, Suffolk

Hopton Church of England Primary School, Hopton, Suffolk (1973) by West Suffolk County Council’s Architects’ Department

Source: Historic England Archive

Hopton Church of England Primary School, Hopton, Suffolk (1973) by West Suffolk County Council’s Architects’ Department

Sprites Primary Academy, Stonechat Road, Ipswich, Suffolk

Established architects Johns, Slater and Haward led the schools’ post-war building programme in Ipswich. In the years 1948-74 they designed 44 new primary schools and nine secondary schools in the town. Birkin Haward became known as one of the foremost post-war regional architects and Sprites Primary School is one of his most architecturally-striking buildings. He shows exceptional technical innovation by the pioneering use of a hyperbolic paraboloid timber roof.

Secondary School Building, The German School, Douglas House, Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey

The secondary school building was commissioned following a competition by the Federal Republic of Germany in 1971 for the newly-established and growing German School for the children of German diplomats in London. The winning entry took into account the school’s sensitive location in parkland next to Grade I listed Ham House. Two low, spreading structures were built each with a massive roof to house the main school building and a sports hall. Built in 1978-81 by German architects Kersten, Martinoff and Struhk, it was generously funded by the Federal Republic of Germany - the value of the contract at £5.5m in 1978 was three times that of a British state secondary school. It follows an imaginative and flowing plan laid out on two levels using high quality materials and finished to an exemplary standard.

Richmond Primary School, Hinkley, Leicestershire (1968-70) to the designs of Leicestershire County Council’s Architects’ Department.

Richmond Primary School, Hinkley, Leicestershire (1968-70) to the designs of Leicestershire County Council’s Architects’ Department.

Source: Historic England Archive

Richmond Primary School, Hinkley, Leicestershire (1968-70) to the designs of Leicestershire County Council’s Architects’ Department 

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