The Harpenden Academy
Department of Education
- Harpenden Society Certificate of Merit, 2016
Part of the new school is housed in a beautiful old Victorian Board School building dating back to 1897 which, although locally listed had sat partially derelict over the previous 60 years and was in clear need of restoration. It was sensitively refurbished throughout with some contemporary features introduced, to provide the school with its lower school teaching accommodation, a 21st Century Library (‘Cybery’), a staff room and a general office.
A two-storey extension was carefully designed to echo the existing gables and pitches of the existing building and to complement the surrounding conservation area context. It adjoins the existing building and wraps around the north-eastern side of the site to form a protected, central, mounded playground. This new building and courtyard addressed both a severe 3m level change across the site and acoustic concerns brought by a bordering high-speed railway line. It houses 8 classrooms for the upper school as well as a spacious double height hall, which forms the heart of the school both during the school day and after hours when it can be hired out for community events.
It was important to the team that a simple palette of materials was chosen so as not to over complicate the building and that these materials were both timeless and appropriate. Red brick, dark horizontal ship-lap cladding and slate roof tiles feature externally, complementing the colourful soft landscaped courtyard which it surrounds. Traditional architectural features such as long vertical fenestration, expressed gable ends to pitched roofs and traditional dormers are mirrored in the new school building in a playful, contemporary fashion.
Photography by Simon Kennedy