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Old school ties

Jestico + Whiles' close and continuing relationship with Stoke Newington School post BSF has paid dividends with its design for the sixth form block

Building Schools for the Future swept a huge number of tiny projects into strategic changes. Alongside the academies of recent years, it proved a rich seam for practice Jestico + Whiles, in which architectural solutions were put into practice against the back ground of very different school settings, some genteel and leafy, some hard edged and one set around heroic brutalist concrete. Part of the Hackney BSF in London, Stoke Newington School had accents of industrial CorTen and occasional slips of yellow highlight to give it a new face, while attending to the roof and social spaces made it more liveable so its spatial generosity, thoughtfulness and calm circulation could be appreciated (RIBA Journal, September 2010). 

The school knew it would grow, but BSF had no budget to provide for it. So when sixth form expansion was imminent it approached its BSF architect Jestico + Whiles for a feasibility study. And, despite uncertainty over whether it would see the process through, the design and build process and contractor issues have seen the firm remain with the project.  

As well as providing extra space for the sixth form there was a sense of giving them a grown up base within the school – especially as post 16 pupils choose where they would like to study. This hidden away corner of the school is set off one end of the axis that defines the main school. But if you want to arrive here as a young adult, skirting the hurly burly of younger children: a side gate and a little courtyard lead into a double height space with canteen on one side and tables set out promising sociability.

The L-shape plan, as it turns back onto itself, feeds into quieter administration spaces. Overlooking this are study spaces, the IT suite, and tutors’ offices to give a staff presence. This is a building that works with economy but spatial generosity. Linking the social and study spaces – as is now done everywhere from cafés to bookshops to universities – appears to work particularly well for sixth formers. And it frees up the main library for the school.

Externally, the material and massing is informed by this dark northern corner of the school and its proximity to a terrace of houses, so it steps away from the perimeter to the north, small oblique windows capped with CorTen giving a sense of permanence to the dark grey cement fibre panels. Light is brought in from above, articulation to the courtyard side is in the windows and their fins – all of which line up with the datums of the existing school which project associate Alex Gordon obviously has a great affection for. If only all Building Schools for the Future projects had built such positive and long lasting relationships.


IN NUMBERS 

£1.4m contract value

589m² gross internal floor area (excluding 110m² refurbishment of previous sixth form area)

£2000 approx cost per m2


 

Suppliers

Client Stoke Newington School & Sixth Form 

Architect and lead consultant Jestico + Whiles 

Structural engineer Price & Myers 

Services engineer Max Fordham (pre-Stage E)