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Department 4 Education winner: Edwin Jones Academy

Paul Cashin Architects & Keith Evans Architects’ transformation of a Southampton department store into a secondary school with community learning spaces is the overall winner of this year's West Fraser SterlingOSB Zero/RIBAJ competition

The building’s concrete frame is, in places, dramatically exposed.
The building’s concrete frame is, in places, dramatically exposed.

Edwin Jones Academy by Paul Cashin Architects & Keith Evans Architects – Paul Cashin, Keith Evans, Amy Blencoe, Alan Clarke

Praised by judge Holly Lewis for its ‘radical retrofit’, Edwin Jones Department Store in Southampton is transformed into a secondary school with community learning spaces.  

Remodelling entails ‘additions and subtractions’, the architects comment, and these structural interventions into the exposed concrete frame make extensive use of SterlingOSB Zero as part of a simple and robust materials palette – manufactured offsite as modular cassettes. Corrugated external cladding refers to Southampton’s shipping container port.

The school’s public face is created by opening the existing building frame around the edges, connecting to the civic realm. The ground floor accommodates shops to East Street while, to the north, community sports spaces connect to playing fields in Hoglands Park via a reopened route through the site.

Pedestrianising the intermediary Houndwell Place further connects the school to the sports pitches, with the welcoming colonnaded entrance accessed from Queensway. ‘The design links areas in a very simple way,’ praised judge Stephen Proctor. ‘It properly engages with the context of the town.’

Judges felt the building not only made sense internally but engaged intelligently with the surrounding context.
Judges felt the building not only made sense internally but engaged intelligently with the surrounding context.

The school itself is arranged with a two-storey teaching wing to the north and south, with the halls, library and external spaces on levels in-between, separated by two full-height atriums. The building environment has a mixture of enclosed and open spaces with circulation covered but open to the elements for daylighting and natural ventilation. ‘If you look into it, it comes alive,’ said Proctor.

External terraces on various levels feature a wildflower garden, while the upper roofs have orchard planting alongside solar panels for a net-zero operation.

‘I like the thought that went into it,’ said judge Jan-Carlos Kucharek. ‘It feels real – a space that could work, with a palpable sense of identity.’ Lewis added: ‘They have been bold with messing with the existing building. I like the urban consideration, the modular elements and using SterlingOSB Zero for something that is repeated across the building is also sensible. It has an architectural ambition.’

Department 4 Education was produced in association with West Fraser

  • Structural grid, new openings and programme, and green roof.
    Structural grid, new openings and programme, and green roof.
  • The existing Debenhams (formerly Edwin Jones) department store.
    The existing Debenhams (formerly Edwin Jones) department store.
  • The proposed school is embedded in its context.
    The proposed school is embedded in its context.
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