South London school wins prestigious architecture prize

New buildings at South London comprehensive Burntwood School have won the UK’s most prestigious prize for architecture.

The girls’ school, which was one of the last recipients of Building Schools for the Future funding, was announced as the winner of the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Stirling Prize at a ceremony in London last night.

Speaking at the award ceremony, Riba president Jane Duncan praised the architects’ creation of a “stunning campus” for the school.

“Burntwood School shows us how superb school design can be at the heart of raising our children’s educational enjoyment and achievement,” she said. “With the UK facing a huge shortage of school places, it is vital that we learn lessons from Burntwood.”

Architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris paid tribute to the the 2,000-pupil school’s original 1950s campus, by creating a concrete-retro modernist building. The building incorporates mural and double-height spaces, and each classroom and staff workroom has a glass wall facing on to the corridor. The aim was to create a sense of openness and light.

Paul Monaghan, the project’s lead architect, said that he hoped the win would show the government that school buildings were worth investing in. Last week, he used a TES interview to condemn ministers for “cancelling exuberance” in school buildings. He said that every pupil in the country had the right to study in an architecturally beautiful, customised building.

“Schools can and should be more than just practical functional buildings,” he said, after receiving the award. “They need to elevate the aspirations of children, teachers and the wider community. Good school design makes a difference to the way students value themselves and their education.”

Burntwood was competing against two university buildings, a 13-home development in East London, a glass-fronted cancer-care centre in Lanarkshire and luxury housing towers on London’s South Bank for the Stirling Prize..

Helen Dorfman, Burntwood principal, said that the school was delighted and proud to be based in an award-winning buidling. “The Burntwood scheme is a testament to the power of strong, collaborative partnerships,” she said.

“Staff and students have said on many occasions that the new buildings have greatly improved the quality of their day-to-day experiences at the school.”

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