Evelyn Grace Academy – Brixton School Building, Zaha Hadid

Evelyn Grace Academy Building, Zaha Hadid London School, Architect, Architecture, Project

Evelyn Grace Academy, London : Stirling Prize Winner

Brixton School Building – design by Zaha Hadid Architects

Evelyn Grace Academy Stirling Prize Winner in 2011

2 Oct 2011

Evelyn Grace Academy Brixton

Evelyn Grace Academy in London by Zaha Hadid Architects wins the RIBA Stirling Prize 2011 for the best building of the year

South London school building designed by Zaha Hadid Architects

The Evelyn Grace Academy is Zaha Hadid Architects’ first large-scale UK project and their first school. So good is the resulting building that there have been no objections from neighbours, none from teachers about the shapes or size of the classrooms and none from the students who find it inspiring and a privilege to attend. ‘It doesn’t make you depressed in the mornings like the temporary one used to do,’ one of them told the Stirling judges, ‘in fact it’s exciting and we’re proud of it.’

Evelyn Grace Academy London School Building Evelyn Grace Academy Building Evelyn Grace Academy London School Evelyn Grace Academy School Building
photographs © Luke Hayes

The architects received a complex brief: four schools under a single academy umbrella with the need to express both independence and unity. This is a large school on a small site, occupying just 1.4 hectares, whereas the average secondary school takes up 8 hectares. Curiously for a school whose speciality is sport, the original site seemingly lacked any opportunity for significant outdoor sport but the architects have responded with guile and intelligence, providing a multi-use Astroturf pitch which can be used for football or simultaneously by games requiring smaller playing areas.

The project is distinguished by its planning; its saltire (slanted cross) plan solving demands of site and usage effortlessly. The site is cut broadly in half by a bright red 100 metre sprint track that stretches between the two gates to the street. The academy bridges the track at the 50 metre point. The track separates the two schools whose entrances are at the half-way point.

Evelyn Grace Academy London School Building Evelyn Grace Academy Building Evelyn Grace Academy London School Evelyn Grace Academy School Building
photographs © Luke Hayes

The two upper storeys of the school buildings offer a podium which appears to reduce their height and mass in this area of small scale housing. The podium roof also provides terraces which act as gathering spaces for each school in the morning and during breaks.

Internally the academy is a good quality and functional modern school, with occasional design surprises which serve as reminders that this is architecture and not just building: a fine stair detail here, finely judged lockers there, which add dabs of colour to the grey and white palette and open on to corridors while their volume is taken out of the classrooms on to which they back. None of this is in any way at the expense of utility or value. In fact so rigorously was the budget controlled that the architects even offered to ‘sponsor’ some of the features that fell to cost-cutting.

Evelyn Grace Academy Evelyn Grace Academy Brixton Brixton School London Evelyn Grace Academy London
photographs © Adrian Welch

At the outset the architects decided against the atrium that has become a trope in the design of so many academies. Instead of wasting space, and therefore money, in this way, they spend wisely on better designed and lit classroom and wider corridors and on the big rooms at the heart of the plan which can be divided by acoustic screens into dining, teaching, assembly, drama and indoor sport areas. This is a design that makes kids run to get into school in the morning.

The RIBA Stirling Prize is for the best building in the UK by RIBA chartered architects and International Fellows, or in the rest of the EU by an RIBA chartered architect. The RIBA Stirling Prize is chosen from a shortlist drawn up by the RIBA Awards Group following visits to eligible schemes. The shortlisted buildings are judged on a range of criteria including design vision, innovation and originality, capacity to stimulate engage and delight occupants and visitors, accessibility and sustainability, how fit the building is for its purpose and the level of client satisfaction. The RIBA Stirling Prize jury determines the winner on the day of the prize’s presentation and its votes remain confidential.

Evelyn Grace Academy Evelyn Grace Academy Brixton Brixton School Building London Evelyn Grace Academy London Building
photographs © Adrian Welch

This is the 16th year the RIBA Stirling Prize has been presented. Last year’s winner was MAXXI, the National Museum of XXI Century Arts in Rome by Zaha Hadid Architects, and previous winners include Maggie’s Cancer Care Centre by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, Accordia by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Alison Brooks Architects, and Maccreanor Lavington; the Museum of Modern Literature by David Chipperfield Architects; Barajas Airport in Madrid by Richard Rogers Partnership; The Scottish Parliament, designed by EMBT / RMJM; 30 St. Mary Axe by Foster and Partners; the Laban Centre, London by Herzog & de Meuron; Gateshead Millennium Bridge by Wilkinson Eyre; Magna, Rotherham by Wilkinson Eyre; Peckham Library and Media Centre by Alsop and Störmer; the NatWest Media Centre at Lord’s Cricket Ground by Future Systems; the American Air Museum at Duxford by Foster and Partners; The Music School, Stuttgart by Michael Wilford and Partners; and the Centenary Building, University of Salford, by Hodder Associates.

Evelyn Grace Academy : main page
Evelyn Grace Academy
photographs © Luke Hayes

Evelyn Grace Academy – Building Information

Address: Evelyn Grace Academy, Shakespeare Road, London SE24
Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects
Client: ARK Schools
Contractor: Mace Plus
Structural Engineer: Arup
Contract Value: £37.5m
Date of completion: 2010
Gross internal area: 10,745 sqm

Brixton School Evelyn Grace Academy Building
photographs © Adrian Welch

Zaha Hadid


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Zaha Hadid Architects

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Evelyn Grace Academy Brixton Building – page

Website: www.evelyngraceacademy.org