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AHMM’s Burntwood School wins 2015 RIBA Stirling Prize


Allford Hall Monaghan Morris has won the 2015 RIBA Stirling Prize for its ‘accomplished’ concrete-clad Burntwood School in Wandsworth


It was fourth time lucky for the London-based practice which had also been shortlisted for the prize in 2008, 2009 and 2011.

The £40.9 million ‘tour de force’ was among the last projects funded through the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme and is one of eight secondary schools designed by the practice in the last 10 years.

The ‘clear winner’ saw off competition from previous Stirling Prize winner Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners with its controversial NEO Bankside housing scheme, Reiach and Hall’s Maggie’s Centre, AJ readers’ favourite The Whitworth by MUMA, Heneghan Peng’s University of Greenwich and Niall McLaughlin’s housing development for Peabody.

The 19,800m² scheme created six new faculty buildings and two large cultural buildings linking original blocks by renowned 1960s architect Leslie Martin.

The ‘sculptural’ building houses a range of teaching spaces from conventional classrooms to interactive open spaces.

AHMM worked closely with artist Morag Myerscough to use large, colourful murals throughout the buildings - combining signposting with modern art.

Initially the bookies’ favourite, the odds on the 2,000-pupil girls’ school to win the prize slipped dramatically during the last few weeks, eventually finishing as the outsider with odds of 10/1.

Rory Olcayto, AJ editor and RIBA Stirling Prize juror, said: ‘Simply put, Burntwood outshone its competitors on the shortlist because of the sheer range of architectural skills put to good use.

‘The reuse of existing buildings, the clever artwork and signage strategy, the sculptural quality of the facades, the smart prefabrication approach, the low-energy design, the integration with landscape, the close collaboration with the headteacher: it’s no cliché to say Burntwood is a genuine tour de force. The decision was unanimous too.’

Speaking at the awards ceremony at the RIBA’s headquarters tonight (15 October), RIBA president Jane Duncan said: ‘Burntwood School shows us how superb school design can be at the heart of raising our children’s educational enjoyment and achievement.

‘Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, experienced school architects, have created a stunning campus. They have produced delightful, resourceful and energy-efficient buildings that will benefit the whole community in the long term.

‘With the UK facing a huge shortage of school places, it is vital we learn lessons from Burntwood.’

On receiving the prize Paul Monaghan said: ‘Schools can and should be more than just practical, functional buildings - they need to elevate the aspirations of children, teachers and the wider community. Good school design makes a difference to the way students value themselves and their education, and we hope that Burntwood winning the RIBA Stirling Prize shows that this is worth investing in.’

The judges’ citation

Burntwood School is the clear winner of the 2015 RIBA Stirling Prize. It is the most accomplished of the six shortlisted buildings because it demonstrates the full range of the skills that architects can offer to society.

It encompasses great contemporary design and clever reuse of existing buildings as well as superb integration of artwork, landscaping and engineering. It is a genuine collaborative project. There was a wonderful working relationship between the headteacher and the architect: a true partnership of equals.

Burntwood is technically sophisticated in its use of prefabrication, its low-energy strategy and the minimal disruption to teachers and pupils during construction. It even has its own high street with a covered walkway formed from off-the-peg bus shelters. Furthermore, the sculptural quality of the finely modelled concrete facades and the lush campus setting enhance the sense of the place.

Burntwood sets a standard in school design that every child in Britain deserves. It is a culmination of many years of creative toil by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris in designing schools up and down the country. This is their masterpiece.

Read the AJ’s full appraisal of the project



Readers' comments (2)

  • chris Dyson

    GREAT, simply fantastic news for education to have such champion designers rewarded by this prize, very well deserved.
    GREAT news for AHMM partners and their team together for 25 Years, No mean feat !
    GREAT to see one of Britain's best practices doing so consistently well, an inspiration to us all

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  • Looks really great - a prize that is well deserved. It is a pity that many (but not all) other BSF projects look so bland and uninspiring.

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