Capital City Academy was built to replace Willesden High School, whose buildings were in poor condition and did not support the radical new approach to raising educational standards that the Government’s Academy programme was intended to drive. The design of the new building was led by modern teaching methods, providing a range of flexible spaces to support the school’s curriculum and particular specialisms, as well as integrating more informal social areas to help promote school spirit and community involvement.
The Academy has a specialist focus on the arts and sport and, having established a ten-year joint development plan with the Willesden Sports Centre, plays a leading role in promoting sports in local schools. Rather than placing the building in the centre of the site, surrounded by grounds, the school inverts this arrangement to increase the size of the playgrounds and sports pitches. The building curves around the eastern edge of the gently sloping site, deepening from two to three storeys as it culminates in a dramatic full-height entrance atrium. The roof line remains constant and its deep overhang forms a sheltered colonnade, supported by slender pillars, that runs the full length of the building.
The classrooms are arranged on either side of an internal ‘street’, connected by elevated walkways. Perimeter glazing maintains a visual connection between the teaching spaces and sports grounds. Clerestory windows along the central corridor aid natural ventilation and, combined with panels of glass in the classrooms’ interior walls, help to draw natural light into the heart of the building. The central space is punctuated by informal social and study areas and a series of internal ramps navigate the change in level. Reinforcing the sporting theme, the student restaurant overlooks the games hall and the building incorporates dance studios and a theatre, both of which can be used by the wider community.