Jestico+Whiles commissioned new school at Mossbourne Victoria Park Academy, Hackney

The practice combines a new-build with the refurbishment of a historic French Hospital.

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Project Info

Client: Mouchel Babcock Education, Hackney Council
Architect: Jestico + Whiles jesticowhiles.com
Size: 4,200 sq m new build; 2,600 sq m existing Building
Duration: 24 months
Cost: £12.3m


Words by Marie Rogers
Images by Jack Hobhouse

A combination of experience in the education sector and an impressive track record working with listed buildings gave architecture and design practice Jestico + Whiles an edge when it came to the commission for a new school, and the restoration of a 19th-century Victorian gothic building on the same site, in Victoria Park, Hackney, East London.

In addition to projects at the Royal Albert Hall, for the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury, at Pitzhanger Manor and Osborne House, and other education projects, Jestico + Whiles had already worked on four other schools in the district for Mouchel Babcock Education -- a Local Education Partnership formed to deliver the planning and construction of schools in Hackney -- and Hackney Council. So the clients were already aware of what it could do.

CLT stained white forms a main feature in the new building
CLT stained white forms a main feature in the new building

For the Mossbourne Victoria Park Academy, the aim was to provide accommodation and facilities for some 800 pupils. A former school had housed its 350 lower school students in the building before leaving for a new single co-located facility. An extension had to be built and the existing building reconfigured to make it a suitable and modern facility for the whole cohort of 11-18 year olds.

The practice faced a few challenges at the start, namely in providing a sympathetic extension overlooking common land, in a conservation area, as well as protecting the setting of the listed building. There were concerns that the listed building, a historic French Hospital, would be overwhelmed by the new extension, and that the site -- facing the Well Street Common -- would look overdeveloped. But Jestico + Whiles is confident that the new extension complements the listed building, while providing a positive frontage to the common alongside the provision of new teaching facilities and many quality, restored spaces within the old building.

CLT stained white forms a main feature in the new building
CLT stained white forms a main feature in the new building

The practice pushed for the exterior of the new building to be rendered, rather than attempting to match the red brick of the old; and many of those who voiced concerns early on are satisfied with how the completed building fits into the shared site, says Jestico + Whiles.

The original building had operated as a school since the Forties, and with its refurbishment as part of the whole project Jestico + Whiles has retained many original features, including cast-iron trusses and ornate plaster sconces, plus its grand top-lit staircase.

Teaching walls are made a feature with bright and bold colours.
Teaching walls are made a feature with bright and bold colours.

The building's chapel now has a false floor to create suitable space as a multifunctional drama area, and the French Hospital's Court Room is now the new school's library.

'The retention of the listed building as a school (rather than, say, conversion to private residential flats) was of public benefit as it was more likely that the public would be able to gain access to the magnificent listed interior.

Assembly seating folds away to leave the space free for dining
Assembly seating folds away to leave the space free for dining

Consultation with the client group was extensive,' says Jestico + Whiles' director Jude Harris, who led the project.

The new standalone four-storey building also includes a sports hall, which will be offered for community use, emphasising the school's mission to enhance local facilities and engage with the Victoria Park community. Dining, assembly, performance and specialist teaching facilities are also housed in the new building.

'While we did explore options of linking the two buildings, the original one was too sensitive to enable a sympathetic connection in our view, particularly as the chapel was located at the end nearest to the new building extension,' says Harris.

Stairways in the new building is in a bold colour to help with wayfinding
Stairways in the new building is in a bold colour to help with wayfinding

A neutral colour palette that begins in the listed building is continued into the 4,200 sq m extension. Here each cross-laminated timber stairway is picked out in a bold colour for wayfinding, and in each classroom of the old and new buildings, the teaching wall is also a bold colour. CLT was the main structure for the new building, with beams and soffits painted in a white translucent stain to maintain the neutral decor aesthetic. Office pods, designed by Jestico + Whiles, have been added into the circulation routes of the old building for passive supervision.

Toilets are brightly coloured and open plan for passive supervision
Toilets are brightly coloured and open plan for passive supervision

The project is now finished, with its second intake of pupils in September taking the school's population up to 240. But it's far from the end of education projects for the practice: it has 14 'live' school projects in design or construction in the UK and abroad, including a similar recently completed project to Mossbourne for the Richmond Park Academy, which also involves reconfiguring and extending locally listed buildings

Main Suppliers

Flooring
Bathgate Flooring
Heckmondwike
Tarkett
Gerflor
ReesSourced

Ceilings
Armstrong ceilings
Rockfon

Suspended Acoustic Islands (to Sports Hall)
Saint-Gobain ecophon

Joinery
Aynsley doors

Signage
Ascot signs

Ironmongery
Acorn

Artwork
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