Built in 1905 on a tight, steeply sloping site described as an ‘inadequate wedge of left-over land’, in what was then the poorer part of Hampstead, New End now epitomizes the more well-endowed board school. Pupil numbers have surged to 430 in the last 10 years and the accommodation is somewhat cramped. Consequently, classrooms have recently been added to the lower floor and on the roof. The school was listed in 1988 for its ‘one-off tall symmetrical design’ and its ‘strong contextual value’ (Saint, 1991, see Bibliography). The southern facade is an impressive assembly of redbrick and glass towering over the urban landscape of narrow alleys and small walkways from behind a high brick perimeter wall that seals off the whole site.
The students developed a strong working relationship with two of the teachers and their
pupils and this enhanced communication and creativity. Pupils were asked to draw and model spaces within the school building and suggest improvements to their use and fit out. Each session was concluded with a discussion on the ideas generated. In a later exercise pupils were asked to comment on the students’ own designs which had incorporated ideas generated during the three sessions.
The pupil’s proposals
Pupils’ proposals centred on the need for escape, relaxation and fun; perhaps indicating perceived stress in the school programme. A ‘loft of wonders’ on the roof of the school consisted of seven zones containing toys and games surrounding a quiet area. Four pupils proposed ‘bubble’ rooms.
‘A bubble room is a sort of extension to the school (Plate 12). It has a door then a tunnel to a classroom or hall. In the bubble room there is a comfy area. This has lots of cushions and beanbags. There is also a sweaty (sic) pool, this means if you have a bath or a shower you can dive in and eat all the sweets. There is also a mucky place, a nice tea and coffee place but I will leave you to imagine them’.
One contained a whole wall of bright lights shining on a disco ball and mirrored walls. Music was provided to allow dancing on a cleared central area edged with beanbags on which to languish between dances. The second more detailed schematic involved bathing as a method of relaxation served by maids bearing sweets and biscuits who entered the bubble from a side tunnel. Central place was given to a dressing table with a mirror and a central light. Furnishing was sumptuous and womb-like with gold chains and silk curtains hanging from the ceiling. The third drawing shows a small personal pod equipped with sofa, beanbag and cushions; supplied with a dream cassette machine and a rack of computer games (Plate 12). The fourth and last ‘bubble’ room is notable for its stained glass windows displaying the planets in glorious technicolor (Plate 13).
Rather than an emblem of disgust, school toilets have become the place where pupils can escape and relax. Here, washing (using baths, basins and showers) has become distinct from relaxing (in jacussi and sauna). Gabriel explains his ideas (see Plate 13):
I chose the toilet. I don’t know why I chose this
room. I just had some good ideas. I am going to
use a playstation box and two breakfast boxes (for the model). I put two baths, a Jacuzzi, some TVs, a shower, a urinal, some sinks and some lavatories. I chose the Jacuzzi because if you wanted to relax you could hop into the Jacuzzi and relax. I chose the baths and the shower because if you got dirty in school time you could hop in the bath and go in the shower. This space is supposed to be very enjoyable and fun.
Instead of ventilated lobbies, boys toilets (but not girls toilets) are to be fitted with electronic smell traps. Girls toilets are provided with mats and carpets together with soft chairs so that pupils can sit, wait for and talk to friends whilst they ablute.