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Thames Christian School & Battersea Chapel, Wandsworth

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

Henley Halebrown and HLM Architects explore civic character – decorum, quietude and presence – at their Battersea school and chapel, winning it a 2024 RIBA London Award

Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel. Nick Kane
Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel. Nick Kane

2024 RIBA London Award

Thames Christian School & Battersea Chapel, Wandsworth
Henley Halebrown with HLM Architects for Thames Christian School & Battersea Chapel

Contract value: Confidential
GIA: 5,175m2

A massive, brick cuboid sits quietly on the edge of south London’s Winstanley Estate. Large inner city housing blocks and the Clapham Junction railway tracks are its immediate, more raucous, neighbours. The new building is enigmatic, both part of the city yet separate from it. In its pale grey, tailored raiment, it has an air of a distinguished, benevolent onlooker.

Responding to the brief of school and chapel, the architects have created a fascinating typology in which each contributes to the overall form yet operates separately, each facade playing its part. The school is entered from the south via a modest courtyard, while to the east the chapel facade breaks out from the building line above onto a small park in a beautiful play of forms. Deep courtyards enable naturally ventilated dual aspect classrooms, enhancing the wellbeing of the school’s 400 students, almost half of whom have special educational needs.

  • Thames Christian School & Battersea Chapel. David Grandorge
    Thames Christian School & Battersea Chapel. David Grandorge
  • Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel. Nick Kane
    Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel. Nick Kane
  • Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel. Nick Kane
    Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel. Nick Kane
  • Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel. Nick Kane
    Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel. Nick Kane
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The architecture of the new building offers stability and permanence in a physical and psychological context that surely welcomes its assured, confident presence and robust materiality. It exudes a rare civic presence, a calm determination and resolve. Anchoring the energy of the neighbourhood, it is marked by finely composed plans and elevations which have resulted in a powerful, sensitively crafted new building. It addresses the site boundaries directly, consolidating the streets, while also forming a small public square to the north which serves the entrance to the chapel.

The large gathering spaces of the brief – the entrances, the chapel, and the school assembly room – are located on the ground floor, giving rise to a double-height base to the overall form. Above this base two opposing courtyards carve into the mass of the building, one facing east, the other west. These courtyards, over three levels, are lined by open galleried access routes to the classrooms.

The building’s architecture speaks of connections to and continuity with a European architectural heritage of Adolf Loos and Sigurd Lewerentz. It has been thoughtfully made throughout, its base construction revealed, its form and facades composed: there is nothing here of the culture of repetitive system construction differentiated merely by occasional picture windows. The material palette, too, has been carefully curated, a symphony of greys, adding further to the stillness of the spaces.

  • Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel. Nick Kane
    Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel. Nick Kane
  • Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel. Nick Kane
    Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel. Nick Kane
  • Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel. Nick Kane
    Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel. Nick Kane
  • Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel. David Grandorge
    Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel. David Grandorge
  • Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel. Nick Kane
    Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel. Nick Kane
12345

Amid calls for more visibility, the tendency is often to pursue architectures that attempt to be open, that break down the barriers between public and private. Thames Christian School and Battersea Chapel recall and develop instead a sense of architectural continuity that transcends a superficial pursuit of image. It is the antithesis of an architectural culture which is an extension of the entertainment industry. This is an architecture that explores civic character, exemplified by decorum, quietude and presence, achieved through skill, discipline and material.

See the rest of the RIBA London winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credits

Contractor Midgard
Structural engineer Pell Frischmann
Environmental/M&E engineer Desco
Quantity surveyor/cost consultant Martin Arnold
Landscape architect Farrer Huxley Associates
Planning consultant Montagu Evans

 

Credit: Henley Halebrown
Credit: Henley Halebrown
Credit: Henley Halebrown
Credit: Henley Halebrown
Credit: Henley Halebrown
Credit: Henley Halebrown

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