The Twentieth Century Society

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‘Hall for All’ and Museum of Brutalist Architecture plan for Acland Burghley School

Visualisation of the restored hexagonal hall at Acland Burghley School, recently awarded development funding.

Image: Reed Watts Architects

A plan to transform the brutalist, hexagonal hall at Acland Burghley school in Camden, North London into a community arts and performance space – plus the UK’s first ever Museum of Brutalist Architecture (MoBA) – has received a major boost, after attracting support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Acland Burghley School was designed by Howell, Killick, Partridge & Amis (HKPA) between 1963-7. It was  Grade II listed in 2016, in recognition of its innovative plan, skillful use of pre-cast concrete components and in particular, the jewel-like, top-lit assembly hall, with it’s rich textures of concrete and a timber ceiling. The school’s brutalist architecture is the catalyst behind MoBA, and it will host both physical and digital material.

The hall at Acland Burghley School, designed by HKPA – Howell, Killick, Partridge & Amis (1963-7), Grade II listed

Image: Historic England Archive

The ‘Hall for All’ project recently received a £110,000 development grant from the NLHF, and seeks to create a much-needed arts and performance space for the local community. An overall plan for the site has been developed by local architects Reed Watts and received planning permission from Camden Council in 2021. C20 wrote in support of the schools funding application and has previously hosted several book launches at the venue, including Geraint Franklin’s HKPA monograph for the Twentieth Century Architects series, and Elain Harwood’s ‘Brutalist Britain’.

The driving force behind MoBA is architectural education specialist Urban Learners who have partnered with the school to explore and develop how Acland Burghley’s architectural and community heritage can be amplified. MoBA’s aim is to encourage wider and more diverse awareness of modernist and brutalist architecture, the places and communities within which these buildings exist, and the cultural connections between them.

The assembly hall during examinations, 1968

Image: RIBA Collection

The ‘Hall for All’ project aims to transform the space by:

Updated acoustics and lighting in order to facilitate world-class performances.

Image: Reed Watts Architects

The school has been working on the ‘Hall for All’ plans for some time, but the recent grant from the NLHF will enable them to further progress these plans over the next year. It’s also funded the recruitment of a Community, Culture and Heritage Project Manager for a year. The venue, funding permitting, will be run by a community-led management board which will be separate from Acland Burghley school.

The venue is already used by the internationally-renowned Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment, which – in a UK first – is based in the school. It works closely with students on music projects within the curriculum as well as the Dreamchasing Young Producers club, which puts on the ground-breaking LIVE AT THE HEX community events every term.

The race is now on to raise a further £1.3 million in the next year so further support is needed to reach this ambitious target. It’s hoped this will be achieved through established foundations and generous individual donors alongside smaller community fundraising events and ideas.

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Outdoor productions in front of a restored amphitheatre area, on the south side of he building.

Image: Reed Watts Architects

Nicholas John, Headteacher of Acland Burghley school, said:

“We are over the moon that, in a very tough funding climate, the Hall for All project has received this initial support from the Heritage Fund and we would like to thank National Lottery players who have made it possible. We want not just our own students but the whole community to enjoy putting on and watching dance shows, music events, art exhibitions, and a range of other activities  in a permanent gallery space and engaging with the heritage of the school, its community and its architecture through ground-breaking exhibitions at MoBA.”

Venetia Wolfenden and Andy Costa, Directors of MoBA and Urban Learners, explain:

“Creating links between architectural heritage and urban culture, to make ‘Architecture for All’ accessible, is a long-term ambition of Urban Learners. So, we are especially excited to partner with Acland Burghley, our local community school, to develop the Museum of Brutalist Architecture.

This initial support from the Heritage Fund allows us to engage and explore collaboratively with the school and wider community to determine best ways to increase the value of local brutalist architecture through exhibitions, performances, and a digital platform.”

Stairwell at the HKPA designed school, c 2017

Image: Geraint Franklin

Urban Learners work with organisations, academic institutions, and industry partners to create aspirational learning programmes, aiming to halt the decline of creative subjects at state schools and supporting young people to enter creative pathways, especially those from ‘non-traditional’ backgrounds. Now an award-winning organisation, Urban Learners have provided creative outreach programmes for Sculpture in the City, The Camden Highline and Grimshaw Foundation amongst others. Urban Learners co-leads Celebrating Architecture and Venetia Wolfenden, founding director, previously led Open City’s education team, where she developed the Accelerate Programme with UCL for sixth formers from under-represented communities with an interest and aptitude to study architecture at University

Urban Learners also work with local communities empowering them to achieve better futures by providing architectural and design representation when they are faced with change to their homes and neighbourhoods.

Instagram: @acland_burghley / @urban_learners / @reedwattsarch

Linkedin: Acland Burghley SchoolUrban Learners / Reed Watts