Bow we were faced with a particularly challenging site and working for a repeat
contractor client, Bouygyes UK, who needed to be convinced by a new design
approach. They approached us because their Building Schools for the Future
(BSF) Stage 1 proposals for Bow School were over budget and both the Local
Authority and the school governors were unhappy with them. Within a month of
our appointment we came up with a successful design; a simple solution to a
complex problem. It was less expensive to build, provided better facilities and
was unanimously approved by all concerned.
concept of three linked buildings enclosing the south-facing grounds
excellent teaching space and a diverse landscape. The Main Block
consists of north and south
facing classrooms wrapped around two atria. The three rooftop multiple
use games areas (MUGAs) on the roof maximise the school’s external
site for Bow School, adjacent to the Blackwall Tunnel approach road, was blighted
by the poor air quality and noise pollution. It was further complicated by the
presence of a huge sewer crossing below the site with a 16m wide exclusion zone
for piles. However, there are dramatic
views over Bow Locks and the Limehouse Cut, and longer views to Canary Wharf to
the south and the Olympic Park to the north.
The culminating scheme in
Tower Hamlets’ BSF programme, the school was designed after all BSF schools
already in planning had had 20% of their budgets removed. This resulted in a
very tight budget and a continual focus on value for money. By being focused on
where to spend money, and working with the School, Local Authority and
Bouygues, we ensured that we still delivered a highly effective and well-built school.
How we worked
We restarted the project from
the beginning, and worked closely with Bouygues right through to the end. Along
with Bouygues we tested our proposals and refined the design together at
fortnightly meetings with the school and the Local Authority.
The Headteacher, who had
experience from a previous BSF project, was open to our ideas and supportive of
them. She wanted to have open classrooms as well as open circulation, and
maximising opportunities for informal supervision, all of which we agreed would
improve pupils’ behaviour and their learning environment.
We worked together to extract
the maximum possible value from the budget, through design and construction. Bow
School was delivered using Building Information Modelling (BIM), which was
particularly useful given the size and complexity of the project. It resulted
in significantly more efficient coordination across the team and a quicker
Making it happen
By keeping the Dining
Pavilion and Assembly Hall as separate blocks these facilities can be used
throughout the day without disruption to other teaching spaces; as individual
buildings these can also be used by the community. In a predominantly Muslim
catchment area specialist prayer facilities provided in the Assembly Hall, and
all the other large spaces, can be used for prayer during Ramadan.
The Main Block to the north
contains the reception, as well as nearly all the teaching areas, facilities
for a large Sixth Form and ancillary functions. Colour is used imaginatively
within the building to aid orientation. The walls of the Main Block span right
over the sewer exclusion zone. A large, sculptural set of external stairs
provides the link between the landscape and the main building, and a place to
sit and socialise.
The building’s compact form
is very efficient due to the small area of facade relative to volume. This
reduced the building cost and also means that it loses less heat. The sealed
facade is insulated and the building is served by an efficient plant with
mechanical ventilation and heat recovery, resulting in lower running costs. The
school is designed to be BREEAM ‘Excellent’.
The creative response to the
challenges of the site and the constant focus on value for money has delivered
an exemplary school on a tight budget.
thanks to you and all of your teams for the huge amount of work that went int o
the preparation for planning permission... We think that we have a great
building to look forward to and one that will really support the delivery of
inspirational learning experiences for students in this area for many years.’