Former Northampton Sorting Office transformed into school

A derelict former Royal Mail Sorting Office in Northampton has been renovated and reopened as a 2220-place academy school for Northamptonshire County Council and the East Midlands Academy Trust. London-based practice Architecture Initiative undertook the project to turn what was a largely windowless, utilitarian, industrial building into an education hub “filled with natural light and expansive views; designed to motivate and inspire.” The 1970s building stood derelict for 11 years and had become a local eyesore, attracting antisocial behaviour. Architecture Initiative identified the opportunity to “ambitiously reimagine the vast brutalist structure” as a school, while celebrating the best of its exposed concrete and features such as its massive open spaces and waffle slab ceilings.

Northampton International Academy accommodates 420 primary pupils 1500 secondary pupils, and a 300-place sixth form. The main mass of the building structure remains largely unchanged. A screen of perforated, polished metal wraps around the building’s brick exterior, and primary and secondary pupils each have a dedicated entrance, directly off the new public plaza.

The internal floor area greatly exceeded the school space requirement, and this

“allowed a unique opportunity to create larger and enhanced teaching spaces,” said the architects. Arranged around the building’s perimeter, enabled by steel-framed mezzanine levels inserted in the 6-m-high spaces, the teaching rooms are allowed maximum access to natural light through new window openings punched through the existing external walls. Extensive circulation corridors are used

as break-out learning spaces and social areas. Vertical voids through the existing waffle-slab structure were added, as well as roof lights to bring daylight into the heart of the interior and create open circulation with visual links between floors. Part of the undercroft car park and the south side of the building has been remodelled as primary school teaching space with adjacent outdoor play areas. On the top floor, a four-court sports hall lined in perforated plywood panelling has been inserted in a former courtyard, with translucent polycarbonate panels allowing diffused natural light. As much as possible, the existing finish of the original building has been respected and reused, with a clear distinction created between old and new. The existing waffle-slab structure remains exposed, as do the new mechanical and electrical services, and its standardised 0.9m-centred

modular grid is used as a basis to inform and set out the spatial arrangement of the entire school. Differentiating the old and new, white plastered partitions have been inserted into the concrete shell to divide teaching rooms from the atria. Rowan Parnell, director at Architecture Initiative, said, “Our work shows that legacy buildings considered ‘beyond the pale’ can – with an innovative and ambitious approach to design – be completely repositioned as useful, thriving and beautiful assets for the community.” The full scheme also includes planning approval for additional education space located on the building frontage that will create an active and a welcoming entrance looking out over the shared public plaza.

‘Please Be Seated’ for London Design Festival FESTIVAL

British Land has announced that Paul Cocksedge will design the Landmark Project for Broadgate as part of London Design Festival 2019.

The large-scale installation, called ‘Please Be Seated,’ fuses innovation and technology, and is said to be the most ambitious of British Land’s commissions to date. “Responding to the changing rhythm of the community,” the design feature curves for people

to sit on and walk under, further enhancing London's largest pedestrianised neighbourhood. Made from scaffolding planks, Paul Cocksedge is collaborating with Essex-based flooring company, White&White, to “re-imagine” and re-use the material.

British Land has been confirmed as Headline Partner of London Design Festival for the fourth consecutive year,

which will see the developer “immersing its Broadgate and Paddington Central assets in London’s most important design event once again.”

Paddington Central will also once again be one of the festival’s Design Routes, and will include an installation by Paddington-born designer Adam Nathaniel Furman, who will “enliven the Grand Union Canal with his signature vibrancy and impactful colours.”



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