Early concept visualisation for wrapping a portable classroom.Source: Haptic Architects and AU Studio
Newham Council hires Haptic and AU Studio
A cash-strapped London council has brought in two architects to spruce up temporary classrooms after its £250 million school rebuilding programme was pulled under government spending cuts.
Newham Council in east London was expecting to rebuild or remodel 20 schools under the previous government’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. But only eight survived Michael Gove’s axe two years ago.
Newham was one of six councils that went to the High Court last year to challenge the education secretary’s decision.
Now it has turned to Haptic Architects and AU Studio for a cut-price alternative, with the pair asked to investigate ways of wrapping existing portable classrooms with new skins made from timber, polycarbonate or even stretched fabric. Green roofs and water harvesting are also being considered, as well as landscaping.
A council spokesman said: “This is an idea which we are looking into at the moment and discussions are at the embryonic stage.”
But local MP Stephen Timms, a former chief secretary to the Treasury, echoed architects’ warnings at the time BSF was scrapped that schools would be forced to make do and mend.
He told BD: “It is tragic that our council is having to resort to this — but all credit to them for the imaginative approach they are taking. It is a disgrace that schools are being compelled to rely on portacabins.”
And shadow schools minister Kevin Brennan said: “It’s sad it’s come to this, that the council have to tart up what should be temporary structures rather than providing world-class facilities for our young people.”
Working on two pilot primary schools, the architects will develop a standard component range that can be adapted for other schools, both primary and secondary, that have been earmarked for improvement work by council bosses.
The project’s budget — less than £100,000 — allowed it to bypass Ojeu and instead Newham commissioned the practices after being impressed by previous work including a competition entry for Olympic kiosks.
Timo Haedrich, a director at Haptic, said: “Young firms like us wouldn’t stand a chance with PQQs so this is great opportunity.”
Among the projects axed by Gove was the £8.8 million rebuilding of Eleanor Smith School in Plaistow.
Edward Cullinan designed it using a pre-cast concrete system from Laing O’Rourke.
“It wasn’t as cheap as a portacabin but it certainly wasn’t at the expensive end of BSF and they would have ended up with a proper building,” said director Robin Nicholson.
“My question to the government is: We’re the eighth biggest economy in the world. Should we be farting around tarting up decrepit portacabins?”
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19 July 2011 | Updated: 19 July 2011 4:58 pm