The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Click to see full size Photo David & Mary Medd, courtesy of Institute of Education
Photo © Elain Harwood

100 Buildings 100 Years

1985: Burnham Copse Infant School, Hampshire

Status: Destroyed
Type: Education
Architect: Hampshire County Council Architect’s Department
Location: Formerly New Church Road, Tadley, Hampshire

The sweeping, conical roofs of Burnham Copse, decorated in bands of slate, glass and herringbone tiles, were conceived as festive incidents in a bland suburb. Richard Weston suggested that ‘Henry Morris would have loved them, for here indeed is a building fit to stand “side by side with the parish church” as a symbolic centre for the community it serves’. Burnham was one of a remarkable sequence of eclectic, witty and imaginative public buildings designed under the leadership of Hampshire county architect Colin Stansfield Smith (1932–2013).

The variety of nicknames coined by pupils and local residents, including ‘tipi’, ‘circus tent’, and ‘magic roundabout’, suggested that the designers realised their aim of providing an evocative and place-making form. Through its life on the printed page, Burnham Copse will continue to inspire school designers, although it will no longer enchant pupils—it was demolished in August 2010.

by Geraint Franklin

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