Ark Putney Academy by Hawkins\Brown\

Merlin Fulcher revisits his old London County Council-designed comprehensive school to view its refurbishment and transformation into an academy.

With every counter-argument rejected, the disposal and restoration project – drawn up by Hawkins\Brown and the council’s strategic partner Lend Lease – saved the building from the de-listing and demolition option preferred by some Wandsworth councillors.

Notwithstanding this regrettable backstory, my first impression on visiting the rebuilt school is that the exterior of the main teaching block and assembly hall have never looked better. The architects’ sensitive replacement curtain walling and restoration of the school’s original colour palette gives a vivid eye-catching appearance to an eastern elevation which had faded. With every state school in the country now destined to become an academy – for better or worse requiring them all to compete against each other for funding – the first impressions of parents, children and prospective employees will be ever-more important. Thanks to such impressions the academy received 150 first and second-preference applications for the 120 places in its 2017 intake – an impressive testimonial in a borough with 300 surplus school places.

Within the school’s light-filled lobbies and circulation spaces – which are, thanks to Hawkins\Brown’s restoration, far larger than any new build replacement would have allowed – are prominently displayed an old brass plaque and a war memorial featuring Elliott’s heraldry. The school’s former emblem – the elephant – has also made its way into the new logo by way of a pupil design contest. School principal Alison Downey reveals she is petitioning Ark’s chief executive Lucy Heller to rename the building Elliott Ark Putney Academy, but so far to little avail.

Hawkins\Brown’s well thought-out internal reconfiguration of the main teaching block – which includes a much-needed ground-floor dining area – illustrates the flexibility of the existing reinforced concrete structure, which will continue to adapt over time.

“Overall I firmly believe that the work of Hawkins\Brown has allowed us to build on the legacy of the school and provide students of varying backgrounds and abilities an opportunity to study in an amazing building once again.”

Alison Downey, principal, Ark Putney Academy

Type in your search and hit enter