Kingsgate Primary School. Credit Tim Crocker

RIBA's winning school buildings

The National RIBA Awards celebrate architectural excellence across the UK, and this year, several educational buildings were selected. Education Business takes a look at the winning schools

The National Awards from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) celebrate the best architecture around the UK. Successful projects display a commitment to designing and developing buildings and spaces for the improvement and enhancement of people’s lives. This year, several educational buildings were presented with an award.
Speaking about the awards, RIBA president Ben Derbyshire said: “For over 50 years the RIBA Awards have celebrated the best new buildings, large or small; shining a light on trends in the construction industry, and illustrating why the UK’s architects and architecture have an enviable global reputation.
“From exceptional mixed-use buildings that bring a community together, and breathing new life into dilapidated historic buildings, to getting the best value from an awkward site or limited budget, every one of this year’s award winners is a testament to the architects’ skill in solving a range of challenges to create projects that will inspire and delight their users and communities for years to come.”

Kingsgate Primary Lower School

Kingsgate Primary Lower School in West Hampstead scooped a RIBA National Award.
Designed by Maccreanor Lavington Architects, this surprisingly generous inner-city school is based on the site of a former industrial estate and its distinct saw-toothed roofline is a reflexion of this.
The building is set back from the street, allowing parents to drop-off/ pick-up without causing congestion on the residential street.
The public space also opens up a new connection to the neighbouring park, which was once a dead-end and under utilised green space.
The large covered entrance to the school offers glimpses into the playground while providing a protected environment for the children.
The arrangement of classes and circulation encourages the children to move through open spaces. Connection to the outdoors is framed at every turn with generous windows and the north clerestory windows bring excellent levels of daylight into the teaching spaces.
The timber surfaces and panelled walls conceal storage spaces and a careful layout of lobby areas for cloaks and storage also buffer the space between the ground floor classrooms and the outdoor play space in the colder periods.
The grand assembly hall is reminiscent of the scale of a Victorian school hall with its huge volume and pitched roof. However, it is much warmer and far better acoustically. It is flexible and can be divided and used as a dining and sports hall with plenty of integrated storage space for equipment to be tidied away.
Kingsgate makes successful use of the site, within a carefully considered masterplan that addressed the adjacent railway line and benefits from a southern aspect, creating a ‘connected’ public space.

Marlborough Primary School

Marlborough Primary School, designed by Dixon Jones, also picked up a RIBA National Award for its clever building which transforms an urban site into a series of terraces centred around daylight and play spaces.
The teaching spaces surround places of congregation and are linked to a central stair arrangement and joining bridge. Orientation and connections are carefully orchestrated around the activities of the building to ensure the daily life of both teacher and student are enhanced.
Entry and security are handled with care; students take a vertical external journey to their classrooms in the morning and visitors are welcomed at the opposite corner with close access to the main vertical circulation core.
Year groups are cleverly separated by level and there are a variety of communal spaces. External spaces face south east, culminating in a multi-use games area on the roof that is also enjoyed by the community out of hours.
The heavy context of brick buildings is mimicked by this piece of architecture, however, fresh colour and geometric openings subtly suggest the different use inside.

A winning Scottish school

Boroughmuir High School in Edinburgh was presented with a RIBA National Award for its impressive compact planning, allowing for large well-lit spaces, excellent acoustic treatment and intelligent ventilation strategy.
Designed by Allan Murray Architects, the site is in the heart of the Fountainbridge area, Edinburgh’s Western city centre. It is bounded by the Union Canal to the South, Fountainbridge and Dundee Street, to the North, Gibson Terrace to the West and the Freer Street site to the East. The site has a long history of industry, brewing and manufacturing, which has now moved to new premises and left the site vacant.
The teaching areas are arranged around a multi-functional “heart”, a top-lit atrium space that connects the faculties together. Traditional classrooms offer easy access to break out areas and enhanced facilities for physical activity and external learning, including a roof-top multi-use games area.
There is also a new public park connecting the school entrance to the city, along the canal’s north bank, next to the new school building.
The new building can support up to 1,165 pupils, and replaces the school’s current building which sits less than 500 metres away in Viewforth.
The RIBA judges were unanimous in their view that this was an exceptional project due to its impressive compact planning, allowing for large well-lit spaces. Excellent acoustic treatment and a very intelligent fire/smoke/ventilation strategy meant that both large multi-height atria are not enclosed by walls or screens. There is an excellent relationship between inside and out at both main levels, and the public realm has been beautifully handled.

Further Information: 

Supplier Focus


An award-winning accounting solution for MATs of all sizes, iplicit for Education has a modern, user-friendly interface that will resonate with busy finance teams and senior leaders. As you grow, iplicit empowers you to add schools quickly and efficiently.