As half term comes to an end and the school bell rings us all back into session, we highlight the architectural heritage of one of our local schools, King Solomon Academy, which has been named by the Department of Education as the best non-selective school in England.
King Solomon Academy was originally Rutherford School which taught 780 boys as part of the secondary school building programme by London County Council, the predecessor to Westminster City Council. The building was designed to be built very quickly. In order to do this, architects Leonard Manasseh OBE RA and Ian Baker, responsible for National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, utilised an innovative approach my incorporating large precast elements. The entire process only took two years from design in 1958 and build in 1959-60. Upon its completion, Architectural Review referred to the school as “a new and important private contribution to the enrichment of educational architecture”.
Historic England has awarded the building a Grade II listing and states, “Every detail of the school is carefully considered, firmly composed and combined imagination with practicality. Though innovative structurally, the school eschewed gimmickry in favour of a particularly humane environment. It marks a high point in the development of secondary school design.”
In fact, Manasseh considers this to be one of his most successful works. He used Carrara marble, white or blue-grey marble of high quality, to line the foyer and floor, as well as timber for the ceiling. Manasseh and Baker thought of everything when designing the school. The varnished concrete and tiled surfaces along the corridors were designed to be “boy-proof”, as they stated.
Although the school is still praised for its innovative design, in 2005 Ian Ritchie Architects were appointed to conduct a feasibility study and expansion of King Solomon Academy. The works, which completed in 2009, included a full refurbishment and minor spatial adaptation to the school. This brought two new buildings to the Academy, providing teaching spaces for a new primary school, specialist music and drama rooms and a dedicated sports facility. To compliment the original design, the new buildings have folded zinc and aluminium cladding.