The UK’s most prestigious architecture honor, the RIBA Stirling Prize, has been awarded to a South London girls’ secondary school. The prize recognizes architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)’s masterful renovation of the Burntwood School and its 1950s modernist campus. The Stirling Prize judges described the project as the “clear winner” and added: “Burntwood sets a standard in school design that every child in Britain deserves.”
The Burntwood School beat out an impressive shortlist of competitors including MUMA’s renovation of the Whitworth Gallery and Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ luxury NEO Bankside development at the River Thames. AHMM rebuilt the award-winning comprehensive girls school between 2011 and 2014 to the tune of £41 million. Six new buildings were added on campus—the four four-story “teaching pavilions,” a sports hall, and a performing arts center—and are placed around the retained buildings, including two designed by Sir Leslie Martin from the 1950s. Green spaces are interspersed throughout the collegiate-like campus.
Six new teaching blocks, located on either side of a central promenade, are clad with chamfered precast concrete panels that frame high ceilings and large windows that let in generous amounts of natural light to the classroom modules. Graphic designer Morag Myerscough added vibrantly colored artwork throughout the interiors and parts of the facade to create a stunning contrast to the architects’ palette of concrete and glass.
“Schools can and should be more than just practical, functional buildings – they need to elevate the aspirations of children, teachers and the wider community,” said Paul Monaghan, director at AHMM. “Good school design makes a difference to the way students value themselves and their education, and we hope that Burntwood winning the RIBA Stirling Prize shows that this is worth investing in.”
Images via RIBA Stirling Prize