After the demise of Building Schools for the Future, the London Oratory School was left in limbo, struggling to maintain its very high teaching standards in its existing buildings. Having worked with IID on a site masterplan and various carefully considered options, the school decided to proceed with an ambitious project making full use of existing building stock and including a drab, underused courtyard right at the centre of the school.
IID proposed enclosing the central area between the 1970s buildings with a roof at fourth floor level, creating a striking library space at ground floor visible to all the students as they made their way up the stairways and open atrium to their classrooms. We took the opportunity to expand the classrooms to create larger, brighter teaching accommodation as well as breakout tutorial spaces above the library space. We discussed every school concern from how to clean chewing gum from carpets to work sequences to avoid exam disruption to roof top plant noise assessment (and the relevant costs). All this was achieved whilst the school carried on life as normal for 1,400 pupils – feeling a little like carrying out open heart surgery while the patient was awake.
The school opened its new library on an evening of thunderous rain, every architect’s nightmare; notwithstanding this, we enjoyed a moving and uplifting ceremony with Bishop John Sherrington. The library has since also been used for formal suppers, fundraising events, open and career evenings as well as providing a calm and luminous space for all to enjoy.
The building was shortlisted for an RIBA London Award in 2016.