A new science and mathematics Academy on the historic Dagnam Park Estate
The Drapers’ Academy is a 1100-place school on the edge of Harold Hill, a post-war new town built on the outskirts of London. The first building in the new learning village, the academy is set in the parkland of the Dagnam Estate on the site of an Elizabethan manor house. It sits harmoniously in the green belt, relates to its local community and maximises views of the countryside, providing a calm environment in which to learn. It is sponsored by The Drapers’ Guild, one of London’s oldest Guilds and Queen Mary University.
The thoroughly well conceived design gives a feeling of quality, calmness and permanence; creating a school that engenders local pride, enhances the community and raises educational aspirations in the area for all.
Civic Trust Awards Judges
A journey through the learning landscape
Taking full advantage of this parkland setting large windows from the Main Hall and Learning Resource Centre look out across open countryside, while planting is brought into a central courtyard. Teaching spaces also look out into the landscape and are bathed in daylight, some overlooking green roofs that complement the surrounding views.
Classrooms are arranged to reflect pupils’ progress through the school year groups; as pupils progress their classrooms rise up and around the building in chronological order to the sixth form accommodation, which is located at the highest point of the school as a symbol of achievement.
A radical rethink of how science is taught in schools
The building has enhanced science and maths facilities that face each other across the central courtyard, increasing the prominence of these facilities in the footprint of the school. Students take a learning journey through these spaces which move through science studios, traditional laboratories, pharmacy-style dispensing prep rooms, a bio-dome to support biological science and horticulture, and a cluster of mathematics teaching spaces.
This design evolved out of our collaborative work to develop more interactive science facilities for the Department of Education, known as Project Faraday.
Craft, industry and education, coming together
A single brick material is used for the façades, referencing the solidity and elegance of grand houses that stood before.
The walls of the Sports Hall are divided into bays of brickwork, using the Golden Ratio principles of geometry. Subtly angled bricks create a textured façade that changes as light moves across it. In some lights it looks like richly woven fabric, appropriately for a school that derives its name from the 'Mystery of Drapers of the City of London' (here mystery meaning skill).
The school’s other sponsor, Queen Mary University, provides students with valuable links to the university’s wider facilities and higher education opportunities.
Preparing for the future
As well as responding to the brief, our design is also founded upon sustainable principles. These include the optimisation of natural light and ventilation, and a system that has a warning indicator to tell teachers when to open manual vents and prevent CO2 levels rising.
Photovoltaic panels on the sports hall roof provide electricity and 440KW of ground-source heat pumps laid under the re-drained sports pitches provide hot water for the building.