Built on the site of Compton High School and Sports College, the West London Academy in Ealing accommodates more than 1,300 students and 200 staff. It has an inclusive approach to education, bringing together a nursery, primary and secondary schools, adult-learning facilities, a community sports centre, as well as the John Chilton School for children with special needs. Designed to create a sense of community and continuity between these different age groups, the school building is a fluid sequence of spaces arranged along a central spine. Naturally lit by an angled east-facing clerestory and full-height glazing, the spine integrates a range of informal teaching areas, a canteen and light-filled social spaces.

The building curves around the site, shielding the classrooms from the noise and pollution of the A40 road, which bounds its northern edge. The northern elevation is therefore solid, while the southern façade is glazed to allow views over the playing fields, reinforcing the Academy’s specialist focus on sport and enterprise. To break down the scale of the building, six classroom wings project from the central spine, each with its own double-height internal courtyard. These flexible spaces, called ‘enterprise zones’, provide informal teaching areas for each year group. Externally, the spaces between each volume provide sheltered open-air play areas. Arranged over two storeys, the upper level classrooms are accessed from a glazed elevated walkway, which is set back to create a generous double-height space below.

Designed to be robust and energy efficient, the steel frame structure has pre-cast concrete floors and is clad in warm red cedar wood, harvested from renewable sources. Bands of timber form brise soleil at the end of each wing, shading the glazed walls and unifying the whole composition, while the roof projects to form a deep canopy over the entrance. To aid natural ventilation, air is drawn through the building via an undercroft and a building management system further reduces electricity use with advanced heating and lighting controls.

Sketches + Drawings

Development

Facts + Figures

  • Appointment: 2002
  • Completion: 2006
  • Area: 15,520m²
  • Client: DfES and West London Academy Trust
  • Structural Engineer: Buro Happold
  • Quantity Surveyor: Davis Langdon
  • M+E Engineer: Buro Happold

Awards

  • London Borough of Barnet Design Awards for Education
  • Commendation, Civic Trust Awards