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Woolwich Nursery and Primary School

Part 2 Project 2008
Jen Kui Choi
Kingston University, UK
In response to the new housing development in the Woolwich conservation area, a new local school & nursery would be a welcome addition to the efforts re-energising the town.

A disused Victorian Board School surrounded by dreary context becomes the unusual inspiration for the fun learning environment the new project hopes to bring to the younger generation. The existing building is radicalised to re-emerge as an exemplar school and as a possible solution to the family of board schools under threat of demolition following the emergence of new build schemes under PFI.

Jen Kui Choi

Jen is a student with a subtle, knowledgeable and intuitive sense of architecture. Throughout his studies he has developed his architectural sensibility matching conceptual ideas with a keen sense of location, material and programme. In this particular project for a primary school in Woolwich he takes an existing derelict Victorian Board School and ‘stretches’ it, converting and extending the original building into a school fit for the 21st Century. In doing this he has been sensitive to the requirements for a contemporary primary school situated in the heart of a poly-ethnic community as well as to the historical allusions presented by the building style of the original school. Initially he was a part of a group that made a few short films of the area and then he extensively researched and collated a visual record of the Board Schools before developing his own proposals. Together with this group he developed a site strategy which knitted back all of their new proposals into the urban grain of Woolwich.
Once he started on the school his material and decorative programme set up a challenging model for future education establishments both in terms of the relationship of the new buildings to the original stylistic intentions of the late nineteenth-century civic structure – steeped in the visions of the Arts and Crafts Movement and the Gothic Revival – but also more generally as a comment on urban renewal through ideas of historical continuity and transformation. These themes have been manifested by the architecture in an intelligent and witty way through the subtle use light, form and material creating a humane environment which ‘stretches’ the idea of state education embodied within the original design, ultimately questioning the role that education plays in progress – both technologically and socially.
His use of models, drawings and sketches in his final presentation combine to offer a considered representation of these themes as well as an image of the environmental conditions that would be experienced by the children, accurately depicting the spatial qualities in and around his proposals and giving us a sense of his overall architectural vision.

Mr Christian Frost
Mr Tim Gough

Dr Alexandra Stara
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