Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Catmose Academy

I was invited by Jonathan Ellis Miller to visit Catmose Academy in Oakham; 12 of us showed up on a glorious September morning to be inspired by the Head and the architecture; I just sent him my thoughts:

As we arrived, the sun was shining and the building glowed elegantly in its stripped down palate of materials and crisp detailing. The Ellis-Miller plan revealed itself as being descended from Hunstanton and this has proved a real bonus. The Head arrived after Stage C and worked with the inherited ideas to develop it into an exemplary school; all too often the new Head arrives to fight the building, designed inflexibily for the previous incumbent.

But then the Head is truly inspirational and the children of Oakham are very lucky. His introduction and tour took me back to my student days when we designed an educational system for Milton Keynes then nearing the end of its masterplanning. I had been inspired by the teacher tutor Mike Armstrong who then went on to put team-teaching and many other innovative ideas into practice at Countesthorpe School In Leicester. No bells because its quicker; no rules but loads of responsibilities, good food and wonderful workshops and a Hellerup Stair that really works.

The plan is rightly on an East/West axis with a significant number of classrooms and workshops facing North; naturally that means there are some South-facing classrooms but fortunately no East or West-facing ones. The sun-shading looked a little too neat and tidy from outside and indeed South-facing Shakespeare, the double classroom for English, was pretty hot when we visited but it is a minor quibble and should be easily sorted with the sensible natural ventilation strategy.

Well done all!

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