Continuing to look at early open-plan schools, a second example, taken from Pamela Wollner’s book (2010) is Eveline Lowe Primary School in Southwark, London. It was constructed in 1966 and built on the ideas of Finmere School. It developed the open-plan idea further and for a much bigger urban school and was “intended that the school should act as a prototype to be emulated across the UK” (Woolner, 2010, p.9). According to Woolner, this did eventuate as school building took off in the 60s and 70s, to the extent that by the mid 70s the architectural assumption was that open plan was the norm for primary schools.
Eveline Lowe school was built on an L-shaped plan arranged into four areas, each with plenty of open space. Bennett et al (1980) explain that the teaching spaces were contained learning bays, interest areas, workshop spaces and home bases where groups of children could work with teachers. What is interesting too is that it was noted by the Plowden Report (England, 1967) as a space that would allow teachers to “‘cooperate more easily’ and to provide for ‘flexibility of organization and individual learning’” (Cited in Bennett et al, 1980).
In questioning the relative success of Eveline Lowe School in comparison with subsequent open-plan schools, Woloner (2010) suggests that it benefitted from being an original, “with later copies becoming increasingly formulaic, ill-considered and lazily implemented” (p. 10). She also makes the important point that the building took up a much larger area than the majority of schools built over that period. How much space we should be providing per student is a valid consideration.
Interestingly Eveline Lowe School (reported in e-architect) has undergone substantial changes in the last couple of years. Selected as a pre-cursor to the Schools for the Future programme, it has recently expanded to accommodate more children and modernized whilst still respecting its design philosophy and open-plan arrangement. The original buildings, since listed, have been left intact and refurbished. It’s interesting to view old and new together.
Bennett, N., Andreae, J. et al. (1980). Open Plan Schools. Windsor: Schools Council
England, Central Advisory Council for Education (1967). Children and their Primary Schools: A report of the Central Advisory Council for Education, England. London
Woolner, P (2010). The design of Learning Spaces. London: Continuum
Image of Eveline Lowe School interior retrieved from www.20thcenturylondon.org.uk
Image of exterior of old Eveline Lowe School retrieved from www.london-se1.co.uk
Image of exterior of new Eveline Lowe School retrieved from www.lengard.co.uk