Architecture Today Education Seminar – Summary of Highlights #ATEducation

Last week we had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the second Architecture Today Education Seminar, which was entitled “Building and Remodelling Schools for Tomorrow: adapting to growth and change“. The seminar was a huge success – read more about the highlights below.

The free-to-attend half day seminar organised by the popular magazine Architecture Today looked at a range of case studies of exemplar projects that demonstrate how – through either new buildings, remodelling, extension or adaption – learning and teaching environments have been created that can enthuse, nurture and inspire people who use them.

Cottrell & Vermeulen – Bellenden Primary School

Our first speaker was the hugely respected Richard Cottrell, Director at Cottrell & Vermeulen who used his presentation of Bellenden Primary School to talk about how to design successful classrooms.

Richard said that a good school creates spaces that can be used for learning ‘in all circumstances’ but in particular the two key activities of playing and learning. A community makes the school, but buildings obviously help. He showed examples of landscape interventions and discussed the inspirational tools of the plan, the Shaker philosophy of design and the importance of 1:50 drawings to ensure the spaces you design are ones that teachers and pupils can inhabit. Bellenden Primary School is an example of a new school inserted into an existing community – which produced the opportunity to produce a range of interesting external and internal spaces to encourage activity of various kinds. The layout was informed by a variety of constraints including existing trees, all of which inspired the design team to be creative. He reminded the audience that ‘you never know how your spaces will be used’, and to see this as an opportunity for continual learning about designing for primary schools.

Ian Dryden –

The second speaker was our own Ian Dryden. Ian is the face of our FixMySchoolRoof website and regularly writes about the process of applying for CIF funding for school roof refurbishment, and of course as part of the SIG team who provide expert advice on flat roofing, green roofing and metal roofing and cladding.

Ian took the audience through the latest news about CIF funding for Academies and Sixth Form Colleges for refurbs and extensions and gave some examples of successful projects SIG have managed. The funding has fallen by over £50m since the 2017/18 round and the DfE have stopped releasing figures on the number of applications. As a result, the process of application needs to be handled quite carefully, but the results if successful can provide considerable benefit to students and staff.

If you’re interested in applying for CIF funding the service SIG Design and Technology provides is free. Contact us via where you can also find more information about the process.

Hayhurst & Co – Edith Neville Primary School

Our Third speaker is Nick Hayhurst, Founding Partner, Hayhurst & Co who talked about their project to build a new primary school in Somerstown, the part of London between Euston and St Pancras Stations. Edith Neville Primary School was built as part of a major regeneration scheme for this part of Camden.

Nick took us through the analysis which Hayhurst & Co took to develop a manifesto for the project which sought to develop an atmosphere of socialisation for students, parents and carers. He explained how the key spatial strategies for Edith Neville Primary School were drawn from the development of the school journey – from ‘bedroom to classroom’. In a school with large families, logistics are important, and the team wanted to encourage a positive relationship between the school and community whilst maintaining security.

Rather than ‘pockets of outside space’ as had been produced at Bellenden, Edith Neville was more about allowing a six year old to run as far as they could to let off steam, Nick explained. As a result the design developed around a large multi functional open space. The design also lowered the school hall by one metre to avoid the conventional school image of a large volume being overly present in the exterior massing.

VELUX and Daylight Control

Simon Inch of VELUX then took the audience through the requirements of daylight control in school including the Clever Classrooms report, the ESFA Facilities Output Specification and the European Daylight Standard EN 17037. He then showed how The Velux Daylight Visualiser enables a designer to meet the requirements of EN 17037 by simulating the effects of various layout of rooflights.

He then used the new £17m Trumpington Regional College project (by Avanti Architects) to demonstrate how these tools could be applied to choose the correct type of light filtering glass panels via a comparative study. The result was a naturally daylit space where the glazing provided soft filtered light even on days of bright sunshine.

Walters and Cohen Architects – Sandringham Primary School

Ulrike Kurth, an associate at Walters & Cohen Architects presented this gem of a project to replace a nursery and pre-school building in an existing London Board School site. The original nursery replaced a number of bombed out houses and was set far back from the street, and the new building recovers the street presence whilst providing the necessary levels of security and sense of arrival.

The project at Sandringham Primary School also features a first floor level for older children accessed via a large staircase into the playground which acts as a play device and lookout for the older children to watch out for their siblings. The project won an RIBA London Award in 2018.

Architecture Initiative – Northampton International Academy

Our final speaker was the effervescent Matt Goodwin, MD of the new consultancy Architecture Initiative, which he set up after decades working in school design to challenge perceptions of architecture and introduce a new practical approach to retrofit.

Architecture Initiative actively seeks out unloved, unused buildings for new uses, lobbying government to take them up as new schools and other facilities. Matt took us through the example of the Northampton International Academy, a two-school project with retail and community facilities housed in a former sorting office.

The existing sorting office was largely windowless, utilitarian and brutal – indeed it was built to be bomb-proof, which made finding a new use for it more of a challenge. The design cut slots through the 5000m2 shell to let light in and produce a new circulation structure.

The result is a winner of an RIBA East Midlands Award and considerable acclaim. Retrofit doesn’t have to be more expensive. Choosing the right building and using the right techniques allowed AI and the construction team to deliver the project at just £6/m2. However Matt challenged the DfE to take a proper interest in retrofit as a solution – they should make their output specifications more flexible and review regulations and guidance to make retrofit possible in more instances.

Folllowing a lively Q&A session which touched on regulation, land values, flexibility, programme and sustainability, the seminar ended in time for an early lunch.

In Conclusion

This is our second #ATEducation event and they are well worth attending. If you’d like to find out more visit the Architecture Today website to subscribe, or check out their EventBrite page here for details of current and past seminars.

If you like the sound of this seminar and want to see more highlights complete with slides and commentary, visit the live blog here.