Haggerston School

Architecture Today – April 2013

Built by Erno Goldfinger in 1962-67 for the London County Council, Haggerston was the Hungarian émigré architect’s only secondary school. The building was organised around a four-storey teaching spine, oriented north-south, with linked buildings either side; one con-tains the entrance, administration offices and assembly hall, and the other provides sports and gymnasium facilities. Avanti Architects was appointed by Mouchel Babcock Education as part of Hackney’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme to upgrade and repair the buildings and provide extra teaching space. This also offered an opportunity to undo some of the changes that had compromised the clarity of the original building.

The major elements of the project were refurbishment and interventions to the main block, removal of an insensitive dining room extension, upgrading the facade, and building a new technology, design and art block. All this was undertaken within a tight budget as no additional funding came attached to the building’s grade-two listed status. Work focused on resolving the constraints of the main block, such as the limited variety of teaching spaces and long, poorly daylit circulation routes, since these would have the greatest im-pact on teaching and learning.

The reconfigured building moves away from a traditional classroom format towards more pastoral ‘homebases’. A complex phasing strategy allowed the school to remain in operation through the 17-month design and build contract. To provide the new accommodation and pave the way for co-educational intake, there was need for a third annexe. The new block G, on the site of a former staff car park, maintains the view from Queensbridge Road, and holds the building line de-fined by the sports annexe. One of the most exacting aspects of the project was restoration of the facade while upgrading the performance of the envelope. The existing building had three types of glazing, each requiring a separate strategy. Single-glazed steel and aluminium patent glazing was replaced with high-performance double-glazed thermally-broken aluminium windows and replica light-shelf details. Slim sightlines were achieved, Goldfinger’s foil feature was preserved and the original colour scheme restored. The main teaching block has been redesigned with a new double-height space, to increase daylight and provide physical and visual links to the refurbished library, which is now open to the local community. The main entrance has been reinstated and reinvigorated with a waiting area, parents’ room and staff offices.

Dining facilities have also been dramatically improved. The shortfall of space resulting from the removal of the later dining room extension was resolved by clearing service area offices and creating a double-sided, two-level dining space. Internal finishes have been restored, including timber cladding and a brick acoustic wall in the entrance foyer and assembly hall, as well as the original lighting scheme.

The new two-storey annexe accommodates design and technology, art and IT. The brick volume is offset by two protruding staircase elements and two angled cantilevers on the south, which provide solar shading and outdoor learning spaces off classrooms. Studio spaces are arranged around a double height ‘forum’ which offers a flexible teaching space for cross curriculum work and display.

The environmental strategy focused on improving the thermal and technical performance, including enhancing insulation, reducing cold-bridging, controlling daylight and solar gain, improving airtightness, improving inherent natural ventilation, and upgrading services. The technical upgrade of the envelope included recoating the concrete in a colour similar to the original exposed aggregate and pre-cast concrete frame, which had been unsympathetically overcoated in the 1990s. Replacement of the glazing resulted in a reduction in air infiltration from 3.5 to 0.25 ac/hr.

Presence detectors are incorporated in all new lighting systems, while all new mechanical ventilation has heat recovery.

Technical improvements resulted in a saving of 105 tonnes of carbon dioxide – even with the addition of the new block – which represents a 24 per cent reduction in emissions. Both refurbished and new-build areas achieved BREEAM ‘Very Good’ .


Haggerston School, NOW, Press,