Burntwood wins UK’s most prestigious design & architecture award

Published: Friday 16th October 15

Burntwood School in Tooting is celebrating an unprecedented hat trick of top design awards after being named winner of the highly prestigious 2015 RIBA Stirling Prize.

The school was announced as this year’s winner at a glittering awards ceremony last night (Thursday). Dubbed “The Oscars” of the design and architecture industry, the Stirling Prize is awarded to the building that’s judged to have “made the greatest contribution to the evolution of architecture over the past year”. 

The new library at Burntwood

The judges concluded: “Burntwood School is the clear winner of the 2015 RIBA Stirling Prize. It is the most accomplished of the six shortlisted buildings because it demonstrates the full range of the skills that architects can offer to society.

“It encompasses great contemporary design and clever reuse of existing buildings as well as superb integration of artwork, landscaping and engineering. It is a genuine collaborative project. There was a wonderful working relationship between the head teacher and the architect: a true partnership of equals.”

Speaking at the awards ceremony, RIBA President Jane Duncan said: “Burntwood School shows us how superb school design can be at the heart of raising our children's educational enjoyment and achievement.”

She said the firm of architects, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, had “created a stunning campus. They have produced delightful, resourceful and energy efficient buildings that will benefit the whole community in the long term.”

The school was extensively remodelled and rebuilt last year as part of a £40m improvement scheme. Its new-look campus boasts four brand new teaching blocks, a new performing arts centre and sports hall. An IT learning centre and new state-of-the-art science laboratories reinforce its reputation as a centre of excellence for science. Its assembly hall and swimming pool/gymnasium building were also extensively refurbished and modernised while the campus also benefited from major landscaping work.

The changes have enabled the school to cater for an additional 250 pupils, including an expanded sixth form of up to 400 students.

The building works were carried out by construction firm Lend Lease with the design work led by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM), whose website showcases the scheme. The project was managed and overseen by Wandsworth Council. 

Burntwood now has a hat trick of top design awards

The Stirling Prize makes it a hat trick of major design awards for Burntwood. In March it won a coveted Civic Trust Award and in July a top prize in the 2015 New London Architecture (NLA) Awards.

Burntwood’s principal Helen Dorfman said: “The whole Burntwood School community is delighted and proud that the scheme has been recognised as being worthy of the Stirling Prize.

“Staff and students have said on many occasions that the new buildings have greatly improved the quality of their day-to-day experiences at the school and students comment that their commitment to learning has been enhanced.”

Speaking before the announcement she said: “The campus has been carefully designed to maximise learning opportunities for the students.  Facilities include excellent science laboratories; professional standard dance, drama, music and theatre provision; outstanding sports accommodation linked to a sports field and including a swimming pool and fitness suite.  We include art, photography, design technology, textiles, product design and computing in our curriculum and are proud of the high numbers of young people who leave Burntwood for prestigious higher education institutions.”

Yasmin, a Year 9 pupil at the school said: "The buildings help me to learn because they are organised and work well and I want to do well to complement them." 

Her words were echoed by Year 8 student Thalia who added: “The technology in the buildings means that we are so much better than any local school.  It makes me want every school to be like Burntwood.”

Wandsworth’s education spokesman Cllr Kathy Tracey said: “This is a stunning achievement for the school. It has been an amazing transformation that has retained all of the best elements of its original 1950s design and used those as the foundation for a bright, modern and hugely attractive and well laid out school campus that helps brings out the best in its pupils.”

Paul Monaghan, Director of AHMM said: “Schools can and should be more than just practical, functional buildings – they need to elevate the aspirations of children, teachers and the wider community. 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.”

More information about RIBA can be found on their website. A video showing just why the school won the award is available on the BBC website

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Recent comments

Presumably ,the Council is lobbying hard for Government funds for much needed improvements at Graveney and Chestnut Grove schools to bring them up to the same standards as Southfields and Burntwood Schools, which benefitted from (Labour) government funded Building Schools For The Future monies?
Philip Bradley

18 October 2015

All the more galling for those of us who fought the sell-off of Elliott's grounds. If the council could somehow find the funds to refurbish this school to the tune of winning the country's most prestigious architecture prize, why could they not do so for Elliott, which was similarly Grade II listed, without selling off its playing fields - a move that was opposed and strongly fought by most of the local community. We were told there was "no funding available" and none was sought and yet here not only was it sought and found but the school wins this prize. An absolute slap in the face for Elliot's pupuls who have lost their playing fields forever to an ugly and unwanted Barratt development, and for all of us who fought against the sell-off.

16 October 2015