The American School

Orms (sports building), Walters & Cohen (arts block), London, 2015


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Windows on both north and south elevations flood the rooms with daylight 

Marcus Peel     Download Original

  • Windows on both north and south elevations flood the rooms with daylight    
  • Whelan & Grant was the concrete supplier    
  • View of the facade    
  • Inside one of the classrooms    
  • Structural Stairways provided the steel stairs    
  • View of the swimming pool    
  • Orms designed the swimming pool    
  • Circulation area    
  • The school offers the full American curriculum from kindergarten to 12th grade     
  • Masterplan overview    
  • Location plan    
  • Lower ground floor plan – swimming pool and sports facility    
  • Art block lower ground floor plan    
  • Art block ground floor plan    
  • Art block upper ground floor plan    
  • Perspective section    
  • During construction    
  • During construction    
  • Detailed facade section and elevation of art block    
  • Isometric detail through pool hall and playground    
  • Section through playground, spectator gallery and pool hall    

A new swimming pool and an arts block complete the American School in London’s 15-year-long masterplan. 

Some 20 years ago the school brought in architectural practice Orms to look at a masterplan for the school’s future development. The 15-year plan was aimed at providing more sports facilities, more science teaching space and better facilities for the arts. These two projects – a swimming pool and sports centre by Orms and an arts building by Walters & Cohen won via an invited competition in 2011 – complete this masterplan, marking the final chapter in this phase of the school’s development.

For the £10 million sports centre, Orms carved out a space between the school playground above and a live London Underground line beneath. By excavating to a depth of 10m and erecting a long-span concrete roof the practice has managed to accommodate a 25m swimming pool, fitness studio, multipurpose room and changing facilities within the school’s existing footprint.

The underground sports centre contrasts markedly with Walters & Cohen’s arts block, which sits prominently at the corner of the site and is accessed through the sports centre. This four-storey building, which takes its cue from the mass and footprint of the listed villas on the adjacent site, is large and, from the road, seems almost impenetrable. On the school side an expansive glass façade faces the campus’s other buildings. Fronting a new sunken courtyard intended for use as an outdoor exhibition space or sculpture plaza, this connects the art facilities with the more academic spaces in the rest of the school and displays what is going on inside the art block.

A large exhibition space occupies the ground floor of the arts building, while photography, sculpture, ceramics and art studios are located in the floors above. The studios are column-free and can be reconfigured to suit whatever is being taught in the space. Windows on both north and south elevations flood the rooms with daylight, while the bare concrete walls and ceiling soffits have a robust quality.

The art block feature a stone façade, with concave indentations recalling the fluted columns of the Classical orders. The flutes were CNC-cut into the façade’s Portuguese limestone panels and hand-finished on site. Computer manufacturing meant each stone element could be cut to an individual pattern, and here the depth of the flute changes as it moves up the building, tapering away as it reaches the top.


  • Begun: 2011
  • Completed: 2015
  • Floor area: 2,630m2
  • Sector: Education
  • Procurement: Traditional
  • Address: One Waverley Place, London, NW8 0NP, United Kingdom

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