St. Crispin’s Sixth Form Centre

St. Crispin’s Secondary School was built as a prototype by the Ministry of Education in 1952 to test new modernist methods of construction. The lessons learned were published in the government’s Building Bulletin no. 8 in 1955.

The famous Smithdon High School in Norfolk by Peter and Alison Smithson (formerly known as Hunstanton Secondary Modern School), was built to the example of St. Crispin’s, and was completed two years later.

In both schools, steel beams and concrete soffits are exposed in all classrooms, and light enters through large windows. The rain screen façade of the original buildings at St. Crispin’s is made of tiled concrete panels and was one of the first in its kind. The school was Grade II listed in 1993, and extended in 1975 and 2013.

The same approach was taken for the new 300-student Sixth Form Centre. Here as well structural elements are exposed in the interior, which results in high and open spaces. The façade has a similar tiled panel pattern, but in a smooth gloss finish instead of the rough, textured finish of the concrete panels that were used for the original buildings.

The façade for the common room has curtain walling and opaque polycarbonate elements that allow for soft light into the building daytime, and a glowing appearance on the outside at night-time, in response to the headteacher’s brief, who has called the centre a ‘beacon’ for the school and the community activities that the building will accommodate.

The new Sixth Form Centre (value £3.4m) is the youngest member of a family of buildings that was built over the years, but which has its own distinct character. It fits well with the motto that the school uses for the Sixth Form Centre, which is ‘the same, but different’.

Architect: Atkins, Client: Wokingham Borough Council, Project Management: Faithful+Gould, Structures: KirkSaunders, MEPH: Banyards, Transport: WSP Parson Brinkerhoff