Glass house sets trend for new schools

AT first glance, it could be a miniature version of the Albert Hall. Hampden Gurney primary, in Westminster, central London is a curved, glass-fronted, four-storey building without gates, visible classrooms or a playground.

Instead, the play area for the new school is contained within the building itself: a series of semi-circular playgrounds dominate its south side, stacked on top of each other. Each one is protected by a 1.9 metre-high barrier of laminated, stadium-strength glass.

"The kids can use these playgrounds in all weathers," said Helen Maudslay, an architect with Building Design Partnership, which developed the new building. "They still feel like they're outside - you get airflow right through."

The building, which last month won an award from the Royal Institute of British Architects, will open in September. It replaces a sprawling 1960s construction.

The previous school building did have a conventional playground. This is now being used as a site for new residential apartment blocks. It is this leasing out of school land that has funded the new building.

"As a church-maintained school, we had to find 10 per cent of the cost," said Brian Hilton, vice-chair of the school's governors. "There was no other way of finding this capital other than using the site."

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