Belham Primary School

Haverstock, London, 2018

 

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A £61 million regeneration programme has seen 11 schools across Southwark either built or refurbished 

Simon Kennedy     Download Original

  • A £61 million regeneration programme has seen 11 schools across Southwark either built or refurbished    
  • The Cor-ten extension, due to its hue, encompasses all of the various shades of red brick in the original build    
  • Street view    
  • The extension references the original building    
  • Despite Historic England’s push for brick cladding, Haverstock was adamant it did not want to create a ‘pastiche’    
  • The classrooms have been left exactly where they were, refurbished and divided to house three classes of 30 rather than one of 90    
  • Gym class in progress    
  • Circulation area    
  • The bright yellow staircase    
  • A central hall is eschewed in favour of an area between the new and old that serves as a hall, dining room and circulation route    
  • Looking up from the new dining hall space    
  • Floorplans    
  • Section AA    
  • Facade section    

A vacated Grade II-listed Victorian school building in south-east London is back in use with a modern extension clad in weathering steel.

An assessment of the Belham Primary School’s fabric, carried out by Levitate Architects, revealed extensive leaks and damp that would take years to dry out. Only certain areas had been properly maintained and the assessment ‘graded’ these different locations to determine what could be saved. Luckily they included much original roof structure on upper floors. What was also apparent at feasibility stage was that the new provisions desired for the school would not fit within its existing footprint. 

The site was constrained by Bellenden Road and the surrounding – mostly residential – development, the rights of light and views of which had to be considered. The only patch of land that seemed available was the school’s playground. Historic England ruled, however, that building on this site would have too damaging an effect on the setting. Instead, the two new forms that Haverstock has created – a low brick plinth and a taller Cor-ten block which houses new staff spaces and a studio – were built at the school’s eastern visitor entrance, formerly the boy’s entrance, visible from the quieter Maxted Road but not from Bellenden Road itself.

The Haverstock scheme creates two new ‘L’-shaped spaces. The first, at ground level, was formerly an external space, now enclosed by the extension. Here, a more traditional, ‘static’ central hall has been eschewed in favour of an area between the new and old that serves as a hall, dining room and circulation route. This space, skylit from above and wrapping around the formerly external walls of an existing classroom, has the feel of a covered street, providing an axis straight between the school’s main pupil entrance and the newly rationalised visitor entrance.

The second ‘L’ shape sits on the floor above, offset slightly to the east and forming a raised terrace on the roof of the extension’s lower, brick-clad form. Where the playground space was once going to be sacrificed for the extension itself, it has now been extended to this upper level, out onto which the new studio space can be opened with large doors.

Despite Historic England’s push for brick cladding, Haverstock was adamant it did not want to create a ‘pastiche’. While some concession has been made with the plinth, the architect describes the larger block as ‘needing to be contemporary’, as well as also needing to be subservient to the main building. The Cor-ten chosen manages to achieve this, if only on account of its hue, which complements all of the various shades of red brick in the original building.

The dimensions of the cladding panels nod to the pier heights and window reveals in the existing building, but the extension is resolutely a new form. The often blunt and arms-length attitude to old-meets-new (such as brick walls simply giving way to a bright yellow staircase) is only broken in a glazed section on the first floor, which moderates the Cor-ten extension’s meeting with the existing building. Here, triangular skylights are aligned with the existing large windows, tapering towards the new addition.

Data

  • Begun: May 2014
  • Completed: Mar 2018
  • Floor area: 2,306m2
  • Sector: Education
  • Total cost: £10.3M
  • Procurement: Design and Build
  • CO2 Emissions: 30kg/m2/year
  • Address: 165 Bellenden Rd, London, SE15 4DG, United Kingdom

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