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22 INSIGHTS


MELLOR PRIMARY SCHOOL The award-winning project “uses the building as a teaching tool”


“very slowly and modestly, for eight years,” and that going the DIY route proved ideal, despite the risks. She now heads a still small, but growing firm with 12 staff including two associates. After three decades of “learning on the job” in terms of running a practice, she appointed an operations manager early this year, and the practice now has its first staff member on maternity leave.


Sustainability & Stock Orchard Street Wigglesworth is committed to sustainability, and fond of working with natural materials, yet when being taught by eco design pioneers at Cambridge University such as Alex Pike, she admits the concepts “went totally over my head – I wasn’t interested at all. Something about the agenda had completely failed to resonate.” The Fulbright Fellowship in the US in 1991 changed everything. “It brought the issues home to me, because the States is so wasteful, so energy-hungry – we both decided we should commit to being sustainable architects.”


A key architectural inspiration was Alan Short and his way of “combining an interest in English vernacular arts and crafts, and responding to climate in way that it’s all there for you to see.” She cites examples such as Queen’s Building in Leicester as “an exact expression of that kind of thinking.”


The creation of a co-located sustainable home and workplace in Islington was something of a happy accident; after the site’s auction, Sarah and Jeremy discovered it included an additional strip of land along the railway. Sarah realised they could negate the need to rent an additional workspace, and “explore the relationship of living and working on the same site.” Of course, with the commute reduced to zero, the premises is already highly sustainable for Wigglesworth herself, but its


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construction brings together a range of techniques in an innovative whole. She called a friend’s bluff – after remarking she “might be building out of straw bales next,” the architect did just that. Insulation is recycled newspaper within the timber frame and one facade reuses railway sleepers found on site. In order to mitigate noise from the railway, the wall facing the railway is made of sandbags, and natural ventilation by stack effect is provided to the house through grilles on the tower that houses a library and work room. With influences ranging from Le Corbusier to Rem Koolhas and


Walter Segal, the building’s eclectic mix proved too rich for some. Wigglesworth reports that many architects were befuddled by the project on its completion. “We were condemned for having too many ideas, which I thought was extraordinary.” Despite this, the public – and Kevin McCloud (the project was featured on Grand Designs) – were, she says, “very responsive”.


Commissions Wigglesworth says architects “have an ethical duty to make the world a more interesting, more pleasant, more stimulating place, and to make it work better for everybody”. The practice has an array of projects demonstrating this in practice, chiefly outside London, with perhaps its most celebrated being the timber-built Mellor Primary School in the Peak District, designed by associate Eleanor Brough. Sarah “likes working with schools, as they tend to have a clear educational agenda that we can respond to”. Aside from having an “amazing site,” Mellor was also a forest school, with a “limited” budget but “very ambitious” client. There was very close community engagement, including children and parents taking part in construction of the large ‘habitat wall’, populated by materials donated by parents.


Other stand out education projects include Sandal Magna Primary, another timber-built school with ultra-high sustainability credentials, this time in Wakefield. Both projects follow Wigglesworth’s credo of


ADF DECEMBER 2018


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