Wednesday, February 23, 2011

City of Westminster College, by Schmidt Hammer Lassen

City of Westminster College, the Learning & Skills Council’s last grand vision, leaves a dramatic monument to a bygone age.

Educational buildings, more than any other type, are a product of their time. As a direct representation of the prevailing political ideology, and its associated funding mechanisms, they can provide a powerful lens through which to understand the complexion of the society that created them. From the robust, paternalist Gothic of the first Victorian board schools to the optimistic fresh air and light of the post-war comprehensives, the spirit of the age is directly embodied in the architectural form given to the incubators of its children.

More recently, the creeping influence of the private sector has been reflected in the cheerily coloured flimsiness of many Building Schools for the Future (BSF) schools, and the City’s excesses manifested in the corporate philanthropic gloss of hedge-fund sponsored academies. But no more. As education secretary Michael Gove announces a future of flat-pack pop-up classrooms and free school champion Toby Young proselytises the potentials of teaching in the local chippy, soon any architect-designed school will stand as a relic of the past – a shameful symbol of the imagined age of architects “creaming off cash”...

Read the full review here

Originally published in BD, 23 February 2011