Drapers' Academy
In Brief

The Drapers’ Company, Queen Mary University of London


Construction value:

August 2012

Specialising in Science and Mathematics, the Drapers’ Academy is decorated with brick patterns devised using an ancient mathematical principle. It is sponsored by one of London’s oldest Guilds, and is set in parkland once occupied by an Elizabethan manor house.

The 1100 place school is on the edge of Harold Hill, a post-war new town built on the outskirts of London on the historic Dagnam Park Estate. Our design takes 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 in to 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.

The fuller history of the park is also expressed in the design as we took inspiration from Dagnam Park House, which stood in the park until it was demolished in the 1950s. The intricate brick detailing and room layouts are influenced by the sequence of rooms found in English country houses. Students take a learning journey through these spaces which moves through:

  • Faraday science studios
  • traditional laboratories
  • pharmacy-style dispensing prep rooms
  • a bio-dome to support biological science and horticulture
  • a cluster of mathematics teaching spaces

To give a sense of solidity and elegance we chose a single brick material for the façades, referencing the grand houses that stood here 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 organisation is now a sponsor of educational charitable trusts, but was originally founded as London’s medieval guild for the cloth trade.

The school’s other sponsor, Queen Mary University, provides students with valuable links to the university’s wider facilities and higher education opportunities. 

Selected Awards

2014 RIBA National Award: Winner

2014 RIBA Award: London Regional: Winner

Civic Trust Award: Commendation

Quote Image
"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 2014
"The new Drapers' Academy building is the clearest possible architectural statement of the importance of education. Its beauty and elegance will give every pupil a clear sense that they have the right to aspire to the best."
Professor Morag Shiach Queen Mary University
"The building has a sense of calm and clarity of purpose that provides a wonderful environment for focussed learning."
Professor Morag Shiach Queen Mary University
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