Description: Fairlawn School
Date Listed: 17 December 2007
English Heritage Building ID: 496049
OS Grid Reference: TQ3521873798
OS Grid Coordinates: 535218, 173798
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4470, -0.0556
779/0/10141 HONOR OAK ROAD
17-DEC-07 Fairlawn School
A junior school built initially for 160 infants and 280 junior pupils between 1955-57 to the designs of Peter Moro and Michael Mellish. It was extended in c.1980 and the cladding to the Gym replaced in c.2006 and the heating system replaced c.2007. The hall/gym is constructed of structural steel framing in combination with a glass and aluminium curtain walling system and fair-faced brickwork with glazing and timber panels below under a system of flat-felted roofs. The main junior block is of reinforced concrete for the frame and floors with curtain wall glazing.
PLAN: The plan is asymmetrical with two principal components arranged around an entrance and administration core. The main element is formed of a long, narrow, two-storey junior block intersecting at right angles with the gym/hall and kitchen range. From the main entrance, the main stairs rising through the hall to the junior block divided into generous class rooms, staff common rooms and common cloak rooms on two floors. Linked to the entrance block and at an angle to it, there is a group of four staggered infant classrooms, deliberately of irregular shape to encourage group working, and all one storey, with a linking corridor to the rear. There is a later single storey extension to the west of the main junior range accommodating three classrooms.
EXTERIOR: The north facing single-storey entrance block comprises a glazed entrance lobby and a rendered panel, now painted with a mural, and the head teacher's office, set back behind a small area of planting lit by a cut-away section of the flat roof, that otherwise cantilevers out over the elevation in a deep overhang.
Immediately to the west of the entrance is the assembly hall/gym, all of one height and clad in a combination of aluminium and glass walling and plastic horizontal boarding (renewed but duplicating the original finish), on its east and west elevations, and brick for the north elevation.
At right-angles and to the south of the hall lies the main two-storey range (north elevation part basemented), clad in a curtain wall system combining aluminium framing, fixed glass panels, opening windows and fixed finished panels in green. The east and west elevations are of fair-coloured brick.
The infants' block, set to the east of the main range comprise four classrooms set in a staggered line on a south - south east axis from the main entrance. The single-storey fronts comprise curtain walling with fixed glazing, opening windows and lower panels in contrasts of colours (typical of Moro's work). The corridor to the rear is constructed of brick with clerestory glazing above.
The c.1980 extension to the west of the main range is plain, still incorporating a grid pattern for the walling, finished with glass and beige panels, and is not considered of special interest.
INTERIOR: The interior is treated with restraint. The main stair in the hall is formed with open string Terrazzo treads with steel verticals carrying a heavy wooden rail with plywood panels below. The hall has exposed steel trusses and vertical softwood boarded cladding. The staggered corridor to the infants' area was designed without steps (for ease of access for small children) and includes built-in cloakrooms. A typical junior block classroom was built with sloped, sound deadening suspended ceilings which contain light fittings and forms a horizontal duct to some of the services.
HISTORY: In the immediate post-World War II period between 1945 and 1955 the construction of a new generation of primary schools became a major priority for Government agencies and local education authorities. These new establishments were delivered primarily through local authorities' own in-house design teams and sometimes their own building consortia, the most notable early examples being Hertfordshire and Nottinghamshire. Because of the imperative to build the new schools, building systems were developed by the County teams in conjunction with manufacturers. In parallel the Ministry of Education also developed a range of system-built prototypes, sometimes in partnership with local authorities, such as Coventry. Local authorities also established a practice of commissioning private architects for specific school projects in the early post-war years. This approach produced a variety of approaches, and some of the most distinguished civic architecture of the period. Perhaps the most celebrated example being Smithdon School, Hunstanton (1950-54) by the Smythsons, and Hallfield School, Paddington (1953-54) by Denys Lasdun - both Grade II* listed. The latter is a very architectural statement, a clear reaction against the system standardisations of other contemporary approaches. The plan form is organic: Lasdun likened the central curving block to the stem of a plant, with the polygonal infants and nursery classrooms hanging like leaves.
The Fairlawn School at Honor Oak fits into this pattern, being designed by Peter Moro and his associate Michael Mellish in 1955-57. Moro displays here the same adventure, contrasting the formal two-storey junior block and hack with the lower, more organically arranged infants' wing. Peter Moro, after training in Stuttgart and Berlin (and after fleeing the oppression of the Nazi regime) qualified as an architect in Zurich in 1936. Moro moved to Britain in the same year to work for Bertholt Lubetkin at Tecton, an association that was to fundamentally influence his thinking on design. In 1948 Sir Lesley Martin chose Moro as his associate architect for the Royal Festival Hall, South Bank (Grade I listed), for which he designed much of the interior. It was on the back of this achievement that Moro established his own practice, focusing on theatre design, but also producing public housing designs, commercial offices and schools, both primary and secondary. Fairlawn (1957) was the first such project, being followed by the Secondary School at Cator Street, Peckham (1965) and a primary school at Birstall, Leicestershire in the same year.
Fairlawn School is a good example of Peter Moro's carefully articulated, neatly-made style of design, and it is the best of just three schools by this important architect. It also fits comfortably in the canon of Moro's work also included on the statutory list, which includes the Royal Festival Hall (interior) South Bank (Grade I), Hille of London Offices, Albermarle Street, Mayfair (Grade II) and the Theatre Royal (extension and remodelling), Bristol (Grade I), the Nottingham Playhouse of 1961-63 (Grade II*) and several private houses. The school demonstrates Moro's close attention to detail, creative approach to planning and to the careful use of colour and materials that so characterises his work; it is moreover, substantially unaltered. In the context of post-war school design of the 1950s, Fairlawn bares favourable comparison with Denys Lasdun's Hallfield School, Paddington (listed Grade II*) for its innovative, child focused planning and bold architectural articulation.
'School at Lewisham', Architectural Review, 123, May 1958, pp.306-310.
'Fairlawn Primary School', Architectural Design, January 1958, pp.7-14.
'Ecole primaire Fairlawn, Lewisham, Londres', L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, 28(75): pp.44-45.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: Fairlawn School, built between 1955-57 to the designs of Peter Moro and Michael Mellish, is of special architectural interest on account of its highly innovative plan form, expressed by the grouping of the two elements accommodating the higher and lower schools around a central access core, its creative and diverse use of materials and the child focused emphasis of its design, most clearly expressed in the diminutive proportions of the infant school classroom detail and the level surfacing of the connecting corridors. It is also one of only three schools produced by Peter Moro, an internationally renowned Modernist architect of the post-war era. Furthermore, It is one of a small group among thousands of post-war schools recognised as being of national importance for their architectural innovation and creative expression in the post-war period.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.