Marlborough Primary School

Dixon Jones


The redevelopment brief for Marlborough was extremely challenging. In addition to requiring a large primary school with over 2,500m2 of external play areas, the brief also called for a new commercial building and a pedestrian link to be provided across this constrained urban site. The challenge was how to achieve a significant increase in density within the 80x40m footprint whilst also creating a fitting replacement for a handsome Victorian School which has previously stood on the site since 1878. 

Massing constraints posed by a 10 storey apartment block to the east contrasted with a 5 storey blank party wall to the west resulted in a stepped section across the site establishing a series of cascading 'garden terraces' offering a rich diversity of external play areas accessed directly from classrooms which promote the educational benefits of nature, exercise and sport. The school is organised around this vertical section starting with the youngest pupils at ground through to the junior pupils at the top. The stepped section allows larger communal spaces to be created below where the Main Hall spaces form the social heart of the school lined with oak panelling and bathed in natural light from two central rooflights.

The building takes on an expressive civic role with a rich palette of materials that seamlessly blend modern robust detailing with references to the historic local context. The green glazed brick and circular windows reference the polychromy of the 1911 listed Michelin Building nearby. In contrast to the original Victorian school which had stood behind imposing brick boundary walls, the new building seeks to engage positively with the public realm with a welcoming a community entrance and playground gates. Several of the historic keystones and plaques from the original school were rebuilt into the facades to preserve the legacy of Marlborough School.

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