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Burntwood School

The transformation of Burntwood School in Wandsworth, south London reinvents a 1950s modernist education campus for 2,000 pupils and 200 staff. The existing school was set out in a campus style within a mature landscape. A swimming pool & gymnasium building and elegant assembly hall designed by Sir Leslie Martin were retained, while all other buildings were demolished to make way for six new teaching pavilions. Comprising four curriculum buildings, a sports hall and a performing arts & dining building, the new pavilions are placed amongst the old within a new landscape plan, forming a complete and coherent campus. The most striking element of the award winning design is the faceted reinforced precast concrete panels to the four curriculum building façades.

  • One of the final projects procured through the Building Schools for the Future programme, the development was positively received by the CABE Design Review Panel and targeted a BREEAM rating of Excellent.
Burntwood-School-By-Allford-Hall-Monaghan-Morris-AHMM-04-Timothy-Soar-749x1000 Burntwood School / Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)

© Timothy Soar

Project description:

The Burntwood School development consists of six new educational buildings-as-pavilions and a new landscape plan for the campus. The original swimming pool & gymnasium building and main assembly hall, designed by Sir Leslie Martin, have been retained and refurbished, whilst other buildings no longer fit for purpose were demolished. The new development increases the school’s capacity by more than 200 pupils to 2,000, plus 200 staff.

Burntwood-School-By-Allford-Hall-Monaghan-Morris-AHMM-05-Timothy-Soar-759x568 Burntwood School / Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)

© Timothy Soar

The design of Burntwood School has remained true to this philosophy by retaining Martin’s elegant assembly hall and pool building, whilst the series of new buildings respond to the latest technical developments in precast concrete construction and follow a similar logic to the original building typologies.

In line with the Modernist heritage of the original buildings, Burntwood School is experienced as a campus development, exploiting the views and spaces between the buildings and enabling the green spaces beyond to be appreciated from the heart of the campus.

Burntwood-School-By-Allford-Hall-Monaghan-Morris-AHMM-08-Timothy-Soar-749x1000 Burntwood School / Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)

© Timothy Soar

The six new pavilions include four curriculum buildings for business skills, arts & technology, communications and maths & science. A new sports hall is located next to the original pool building and a new performing arts building with a ground floor dining hall extends out to an external dining terrace next to a flower meadow.

Burntwood School is a great example of an architectural practice and contractor working collaboratively and rising to programme and budget challenges to deliver a campus development that has exceeded the client’s expectations.

Burntwood-School-By-Allford-Hall-Monaghan-Morris-AHMM-11-Timothy-Soar-759x569 Burntwood School / Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)

© Timothy Soar

Design Features:

Orientation and way finding is via a series of colour and graphics that appear at key points externally and internally. Double height spaces and open plan break out areas are liberally dotted around giving fantastic light and views out to the circulation spaces.

The school hall is one of the few retained buildings, and its concrete elements and detailing have clearly informed the architectural and graphic response. All in all this feels like a project that has been developed as a team with the architect, landscape architect, graphic designer and head all contributing to a coherent and mature composition.

Burntwood-School-By-Allford-Hall-Monaghan-Morris-AHMM-15-Timothy-Soar-749x1000 Burntwood School / Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)

© Timothy Soar

The school affords a great sense of arrival with an immediate impression of quality, openness, confidence and solidity.

The relationship between the new concrete buildings and the older buildings, a swimming pool and a Leslie Martin building which has informed the new architecture, adds a sense of architectural history and depth to the whole site.

Burntwood-School-By-Allford-Hall-Monaghan-Morris-AHMM-23-Timothy-Soar-749x1000 Burntwood School / Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)

© Timothy Soar

A modular pre-cast concrete cladding with canted edges and different sized glazing panels is playfully arranged on a rigid grid creating surprising interior spaces. The rooms are light-filled, and there are many double, even triple-height spaces. Internal corridors all end in views.

The architectural expression is bold, characterful and adds to a sense of this being a very collegiate school, and would appear to encourage behaviour to suit.

Burntwood-School-By-Allford-Hall-Monaghan-Morris-AHMM-28-Timothy-Soar-759x569 Burntwood School / Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)

© Timothy Soar

“We are delighted with the transformation that has been achieved with the new buildings designed by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris. We wanted a scheme that reflected the school’s history but was also forward looking, innovative and exciting, we believe that our new buildings deliver on this vision. It was also important to us that the buildings and the landscape worked to complement one another with a landscape that was open and accessible to all users. We were also keen to ensure that there were lovely views of the landscape and further afield from all the buildings. The large windows mean that light floods every space and makes for a really pleasant working environment. At Burntwood we have a long tradition of welcoming community groups for sports, the arts and training. The new buildings and equipment mean that we have exponentially increased the use of the facilities by a wide range of community groups and local sports clubs. The vibrant graphics and coloured tiles around the school add interest and ensure that everyone can navigate this large site with ease and confidence. We believe that the members of our community deserve the best and with this scheme we are able to provide just that.” – Helen Dorfman, Principal

Burntwood-School-By-Allford-Hall-Monaghan-Morris-AHMM-32-Timothy-Soar-759x506 Burntwood School / Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)

© Timothy Soar

  • “Architects must respond to the old forms and materials and perceive their true intent in their own age, and then, remembering everything, start again. This is the essential intention of tradition.” – Sir Leslie Martin
  • “The quality achieved from simple concrete finishes shows what can be accomplished within a budget. The buildings have been designed very much with functionality in mind on a traditional corridor and classroom layout, and reportedly function very well as a school campus. Striking load-bearing precast panels are cleverly optimised to give a pleasing pattern rather than rigid repartition. In-situ concrete work was very well executed, soffits were straight off the skydeck system but a good finish was achieved despite a basic approach. Precast cladding panels have an attractive deep acid-etched finish to aid weathering. Exposed finishes meant exposed services, which required considerable advanced planning. Self-supporting cladding (just tied to the frame for lateral stability rather than being hung from the frame) means that the frame can be more slender and hence more cost-effective. Very simple rectangular layouts, basic exposed concrete finishes but well executed and simple designs all point to a value-for-money project.” – Judges’ Comments / Concrete Society Awards
Burntwood-School-By-Allford-Hall-Monaghan-Morris-AHMM-36-Timothy-Soar-759x569 Burntwood School / Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)

© Timothy Soar

Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM):

The transformation of Burntwood School pieces together a 1950’s modernist education campus for 2000 pupils and 200 staff in south-west London. Within an existing mature landscape, six new buildings-as-pavilions develop the heritage of the existing, orchestrating a system of bespoke constructional components to bring both efficiency and delight.

Burntwood-School-By-Allford-Hall-Monaghan-Morris-AHMM-37-Timothy-Soar-759x569 Burntwood School / Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)

© Timothy Soar

The new buildings – four 4-storey teaching pavilions, a new sports hall and a new performing arts building – are placed amongst a number of retained buildings (including two by Sir Leslie Martin) to form a complete and coherent campus, with lawns, squares and a central pedestrian spine. Within each pavilion, classrooms and ancillary accommodation are arranged along a central corridor with voids and double-height spaces at each end to increase natural daylight and make connections to the exterior.

Burntwood-School-By-Allford-Hall-Monaghan-Morris-AHMM-41-Timothy-Soar-759x569 Burntwood School / Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)

© Timothy Soar

The regularity of each plan is followed through to the elevation with faceted precast concrete panels that correspond to a 7.5 metre structural and classroom module; a development of the prefabricated façade work seen at Dagenham Park Church of England School.

Burntwood-School-By-Allford-Hall-Monaghan-Morris-AHMM-43-Timothy-Soar-759x569 Burntwood School / Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)

© Timothy Soar

Project Data:

Project name: Burntwood School
Location: Burntwood Ln, London SW17 0AQ, United Kingdom
Coordinates: 51.437473, -0.179584
Type: School
Project Area: 21,405 sqm / 230,320 sq.ft
Project Year: 2009-2014
Status: Built
Cost: £40.9 million
Completion Year: 2014


  • 2015 – Civic Trust Awards – Winner
  • 2015 – New London Awards – Category: Education – Winner
  • 2015 – Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Awards – RIBA London Region Award – Winner
  • 2015 – Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Awards – RIBA National Award – Winner
  • 2015 – Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Awards – RIBA Stirling Prize – Winner
  • 2014 – Concrete Society Awards – Category: Building (Mixed Use) – Certificate of Excellence
  • 2014 – Wandsworth Design Award

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Wandsworth Borough Council
Architects: Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) – Morelands Block C, 5 Old St, London EC1V 9HL, United Kingdom
Stakeholders: Burntwood School & Wandsworth Children’s Services
Contractor: Lend Lease
Project Manager: Lend Lease
Quantity Surveyor: Lend Lease
CDM coordinator: Lend Lease


  • Structural Engineer: Buro Happold
  • Civil Engineer: Buro Happold
  • M&E Engineer: Mott MacDonald Fulcrum


  • Acoustic and Security Consultant: Mott MacDonald Fulcrum
  • Landscape Architect: Kinnear Landscape Architects
  • Ecology Consultant: The Ecology Consultancy
  • Environmental Designer: Morag Mysercough / Studio Myerscough
  • Planning Consultant: Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners
  • Party Wall Surveyor: Anstey Horne
  • FF&E: Smart FFE
  • Approved Inspector: Butler & Young Approved Inspectors
  • Access Consultant: David Bonnett Associates
  • Fire Consultant: Tenos Fire Engineering
  • ICT Consultant: Civica Ltd
  • Catering Consultant: Design Catering Equipment Ltd

Text Description: © Courtesy of Burntwood School, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM), Concrete Society Awards, RIBA
Images: © Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM), Timothy SoarRob Parrish


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