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EVELYN GRACE ACADEMY
Country: UK, England
Main Contractor: ARK
Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects
Our contribution: Performing static, fabrication and site project curtain walls.
The Evelyn Grace Academy building in Brixton, London Borough of Lambeth, in between the Shakespeare Road and Loughborough Park, east of the Brixton center, not only continues the rich educational traditions of this historic part of London, but also increases the diversity of the local built environment mostly with residential buildings.
The building of The Evelyn Grace Academy presents itself as an open, transparent and friendly contribution to the process of revitalizing the neglected parts of the city in London that went underway a few years ago
Strategic placement of the academy area on the crossing of the two main residential arteries was a challenge for designers, who managed to naturally integrate the architectural form of the designed Academy into the surroundings, and at the same time make the whole area coherent and retain its character. The building takes on a strong urban character and identity, which is readable both in the context of local and neighboring development zones. It offers an educational environment that is spatially calming, thus able to engage students actively. The design of the building offers everything that contemporary architecture can do to create an environment for progressive learning procedures.
The school's philosophy draws upon that of the U.S. charter school movement specifically, its ‘small school model’. The project objective was the usage of the natural values of the surroundings to create highly functional spaces that give each of the four smaller schools that make up the Academy a separate identity, both internally and externally. These spaces present an open environment with maximum levels of natural light, ventilation and low but durable building facades.
The shared spaces - common to all schools - are to encourage social communication within a separate hierarchy of natural aggregation nodes, which connect a large residential area. Similarly the outside shared spaces in order to generate a setting that encourages interaction, are treated in a layered fashion, creating informal social and teaching spaces at different levels based on the convergence of multiple functions.
Evelyn Grace Academy is the first completed architectural project of Zaha Hadid Architects in England. It was built in an area with the highest violent crime rate in Europe. The school with an area of 10,000 m2 was opened on September 13, 2010.
Space between Evelyn Grace Academy and the adjacent streets were taken by playgrounds and sports fields with a 100-meter-long bright red running track as well as bridge building in the middle of the running track.
The elevation of the main building took the shape of a diagonal line along the entire length of the building, creating a specifically broken curve. The building twists many times, helping to mark the separate character of four schools united in one Academy. The interior of Evelyn Grace Academy is basically a simple layout, with classrooms on either side of wide corridors. The complex is thus essentially simple, yet complicated by the irregular architectural geometry and the classrooms serving small schools at different levels.
The design by Zaha Hadid architecture communicates the high ambitions of a serious university, but at the same time preserves the intimacy of its ‘small schools’. In places it looks like a standard school building with cosmetic applied exotic geometry. Unexpected space overlap counteracts the potential architectural boredom of large school buildings.