The project, which went on to win the Stephen Lawrence Prize for Architecture, was to build a small extension to an existing school to house its library, music store and one or two other functions.
The competition brief initially asked for the extension to be built on the roof. However, we instantly saw a better solution by extending to the side facing the road.
This had multiple benefits. As well as fulfilling the original brief, it set up opportunities for outdoor teaching and to resolve some ongoing issues connected to the main entrance. Beyond that, it would forge a better physical and symbolic link between the school and its local community. On a practical level, a separate building meant the project wouldn’t be subject to VAT.
Having won the commission, we involved pupils in the early design process by activating their imaginations for what the space could be. The resulting 50 m2 Book Box design melds their wishes with the school’s needs, adding considerable extra value.
The entrance is flooded with calming light filtered through stained glass. Constructed from birch ply, bookcases and benches are at one with the structure.
The space can be opened up to the outside to become a space for performances or sheltered outdoor learning.
The space sets the conditions for academic achievement. It is both calming and stimulating.
RIBA Past President Marco Goldschmeid ( a judge for the Stephen Lawrence Prize) said, “The St Patrick’s School Music Room and Library marks that rare occasion when a small budget in the hands of a thoughtful and ingenious architect lays the seed for the step-by-step transformation of an entire institution. The effortless and elegant integration of structure, internal finishes and fixed furniture creates a place that generations of pupils will fondly remember in years to come.”