Built on the playing fields of the former Edgware School in the London Borough of Barnet, London Academy is one of the largest schools designed by the practice, accommodating 1,425 students. The curriculum has a particular focus on business, enterprise and information and communications technology. To help achieve the Academy’s dual aims of raising educational standards and acting as a catalyst for the regeneration of the surrounding area, the building is designed to support use by the local community for sports and adult learning.
The student body is divided into two groups, made up of the lower and upper three years, to combine the intimacy of two smaller communities with the benefits and facilities of a larger school. The architectural approach supports the idea of two distinct schools, unified within a single building – the Academy is planned beneath a single roof canopy and structured around a top-lit three-storey atrium, which connects the upper and lower school and draws daylight into the heart of the building. Each year group has a ‘home base’, with its own social area, toilets and staff facilities, arranged vertically over three levels and centred on individual atria. These internal courtyards feature a dynamic sequence of raised mezzanine levels lined with seating areas, elevated walkways and glazed classrooms. Specialist teaching areas are located along the northern edge of the atrium, with home bases along the southern side – a layout designed to minimise disruption caused by students moving between classes, while promoting a sense of community.
The two full-height glazed entrance atria are approached via deep landscaped voids in the building and the southern façade is shaded by a wide canopy of louvres, supported by slender pillars. Indoor sports facilities are contained in a separate block on the opposite side of a busy road, enabling easy out-of-hours access. The road is bridged by a tube-shaped pedestrian walkway, which is glazed on one side and clad in metallic panels, and projects from the second floor of the building.