Fleet Infant School
- Heritage Category:
- Listed Building
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Statutory Address:
- Fleet Infant School, Velmead Road, Fleet, GU52 7LQ
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- Statutory Address:
- Fleet Infant School, Velmead Road, Fleet, GU52 7LQ
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Hart (District Authority)
- Church Crookham
- National Grid Reference:
Infant school, designed 1984-1985 by Michael Hopkins and Partners and built 1985-1986 for Hampshire County Council; lead architect Patty Hopkins; the frame was designed in collaboration with the engineer Ted Happold. The music room, designed by Hopkins, was added in 1998.
Reasons for Designation
Fleet Infant school, designed in 1984-1985 by Michael Hopkins and Partners and built in 1985-1986 for Hampshire County Council, lead architect Patty Hopkins, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: an inventive and engaging solution to the design of an infant school by a leading architectural practice, under the project leadership of Patty Hopkins; * Constructional interest: a predominantly glazed, light-weight steel frame in the high-tech idiom characteristic of Hopkins and Partners, efficient to construct, and using Teflon-coated PVC canopies to provide shade and added interest to the form of the building; * Spatial planning interest: a light, airy space, maximising the woodland setting, comprising south-facing classrooms off a central axial corridor, with flexible communal areas and office space; * Degree of survival: aside from intended internal flexibility, the school is little altered, appearing crisp and enjoyable as an environment for learning, and retaining its original form, colour scheme, fixtures and fittings; * Educational interest: a vibrant example of Hampshire County Council's successful and inventive post-war school building programme.
School building was both a symbolic aspiration of post-war Britain and an urgent need, driven by the ‘baby boom’, the raising of the school leaving age, planned new towns and estates and the reconstruction of bomb-damaged buildings. Programmes of new schools were coordinated and designed by local education authorities with loans and oversight from central government. Demand was met by prefabricated ‘kits of parts’, either sponsored by public authorities or developed privately. Elsewhere, where bricks and bricklayers were readily available, traditional techniques were adapted to incorporate large windows and flat roofs. Collaboration between architects and educationists could result in expressive plans which facilitated patterns of learning and movement. The requirement for abundant daylight and outdoor access led to dispersed layouts, a trend which was countered by tight cost limits and constrained sites. In the best examples child-scaled proportions, landscaping, bright colour schemes or works of art combined to create a distinctive visual aesthetic.
The 1944 Education Act divided schooling into primary and secondary stages with a break at age 11. Some authorities provided separate infant and junior schools with a break at age 7 plus; others, primary schools for the 5-11 age range. School sizes likewise varied from two-class village schools to primaries of 480 pupils. Informal, ‘child-centred’ learning through first-hand experience, advocated in the influential Plowden report of 1967, was encouraged by the provision of special areas for quiet and messy work and more open layouts. At Buckinghamshire and Hampshire a mix of enclosed class bases and shared space was provided, allowing teachers to strike their own balance between varied groups and activities and traditional whole-class teaching.
Hampshire County Council Architect's Department, under the leadership of Sir Colin Stansfield Smith (1932-2013, knighted in 1993), created a large body of important work done both in-house and by private architects, and was noted for its inventive and successful school buildings. Stansfield Smith led a reaction in the county architect’s department against system-building and standardisation, introducing one-off steel frames and expansive roofs, though the planning of the schools, many of which featured large top-lit atria, was more consistent.
Fleet, formerly Velmead, Infant School, which was commissioned to replace a Victorian urban school, is set amid heathland and the coniferous Spring Woods on the edge of the town. It was designed in 1984-1985 and built in 1985-1986 by Michael Hopkins and Partners (lead architect Patty Hopkins, engineer Ted Happold).
When he commissioned Hopkins and Partners in 1984, Stansfield Smith had in mind the masted membrane structures the practice had developed with the engineers Büro Happold for a project to enclose the town square in Basildon, Essex. For the school, Hopkins and Partners at first developed a scheme in which a tent of Teflon-coated fabric roofs billowed out over a rectangular glazed envelope. Despite the support of Stansfield Smith, the scheme was at first opposed by education officers and rejected by the education committee. A modified design substituted a low-pitched metal roof, whose continuous ridge glazing complemented the linear internal street already present in the first proposal. The frame was designed in collaboration with Ted Happold who commented that 'in concept the structure has its origin in those large French electricity pylons that support their wires on outriggers'.
Fleet Infant School is an example of the high-tech idiom developed by Hopkins, Richard Rogers, Norman Foster and Nick Grimshaw. The structure is clearly expressed inside and out, in such a way that the classroom divisions coincide with the structural bays. The system was highly suited to the airy, open plan requested by the then headmistress, as a complete contrast to the enclosed spaces of its Victorian predecessor. The steel-framed, ‘high tech’ strain at Hampshire was developed in the mid-1980s at Fleet and influenced the closely related Queens Inclosure Middle School, Waterlooville. In 1998 Hopkins designed a music pod to adjoin the north side of the school, in contrasting form to the main school building, but carefully considered to complement it.
To the south of the school is a boggy heath land, which the teachers and architect jointly insisted be retained as an educational resource rather than drained for playing fields.
Sir Michael Hopkins (b 1935) started an architectural practice together with Patty Hopkins in 1976, ending a partnership with Norman Foster that had begun in 1968. He had worked with Frederick Gibberd and Sir Basil Spence in the 1950s, and then studied at the Architectural Association where he met his future wife Patty (nee Wainwright, b 1942). It was at her final 'crit' in 1967 that the couple met Norman Foster. The Hopkinses finally formed their own practice in the house they completed for themselves in 1976. Their new commissions included a plant and warehousing for Greene King in Bury St Edmunds, Schlumberger's headquarters in Cambridge (listed at Grade II*). Their later work has explored greater contextualisation, beginning with the commission to rebuild the Mound Stand at Lord's Cricket Ground (1987). Hopkins was elected a Royal Academician in 1992 and received a knighthood in 1995. The couple jointly won the RIBA Gold Medal in 1994.
Infants' school, designed 1984-1985 by Michael Hopkins and Partners and built 1985-1986 for Hampshire County Council; lead architect Patty Hopkins; the frame was designed in collaboration with the engineer Ted Happold. The music room, also by Hopkins and Partners, was added in 1998.
STRUCTURE AND MATERIALS: a light-weight colour-coated steel frame of 58m x 22m members set out in nine 6m bays, with 2m overhangs at each end, provides 1188 sq m of accommodation. The frame is reinforced by cross-bracing and by mullions at 2m intervals. Attenuated hollow section columns, paired in a 'dumb bell' arrangement of inner and outer columns, support cranked rafters, of which each spans 10m, and a roof of insulated metal decking. The north and south elevations and convex corridor roof are fully glazed, while the end walls are clad in blue colour-coated aluminium sheeting beneath clerestory glazing. It has external Teflon-coated PVC canopies, coloured blue.
PLAN: the school is rectangular on plan, laid out within a single structural space around a central, top-lit, axial corridor aligned roughly east-west. To the south of it, nine classrooms are arranged in handed pairs, with a single classroom at the eastern end. Classrooms are open to the roof and the top-lit spine, and separated by head-height partitions aligned with the structural bays. Each classroom has an enclosed polygonal pod backing onto the corridor, and at the southern, window end, a practical area. Each classroom has double doors that open onto a common paved terrace beneath a canopy. To the north of the 'street' are, from west to east, a full-height hall/dining room/sports hall; enclosed kitchens, offices, and children's cloakrooms; a full-height common resource area and north entrance lobby, and to the east of it cellular offices, a staff room, small teaching rooms and further children's cloakrooms.
EXTERIOR: the south elevation is fully glazed, with fixed panels, opening lights and a pair of doors. Above each classroom, supported on aluminium coated struts, are blue, flexible, Teflon-coated PVC canopies. Entrances at the east and west elevation, with double doors, are set back beneath the overhang of the roof structure. Blue colour-coated corrugated wall cladding matches the blue of the canopies. Centrally placed on the shaded north elevation is the main entrance to the school, with double glazed doors. A Teflon-coated PVC canopy above it covers the route to the music room to which it is also attached.
INTERIOR: a flexibly laid out resource area, recently refurbished as the library, is full-height beneath the northern roof slope and is flanked to north and south by offices, cloakrooms and the kitchen in white-walled, flat-roofed compartments. Doors have porthole windows, those intended for adults set at a higher level than those for children. In the top-lit axial corridor the frame is expressively exposed, the cross-bracing with pronounced fixings, and is ventilated by opening roof lights. The polygonal pods are also coloured white and each has a porthole window facing the corridor, while they are open to the classrooms. The hall is full-height beneath the northern roof slope and separated from the corridor by a glazed wall with a glazed entrance lobby set in to it.
MUSIC ROOM: in contrast to the main school, the music room has a solid form, being rendered in textured concrete, coloured blue. It is roughly wedge-shaped on plan, wider at the north and tapering towards the south. It has a mono-pitch roof which also slopes to the south. A steel-framed glazed door unit leads to an interior lined in wood panels beneath a flat ceiling. Recessed doors to the east and west have porthole windows.
Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that while the school retains much of its original characteristic white painted partitions and doors with porthole windows, moveable fixtures and fittings and plant are not of special architectural or historic interest.
Books and journals
Hopkins: the work of Michael Hopkins and Partners , (1993)
Weston, R , Schools of Thought, (1991), 76-77
Hopkins Architects, Fleet Velmead Infants' School, accessed 27 March 2017 from http://www.hopkins.co.uk/projects/2/77/
Architects' Journal vol. 186, no. 39 (30 September 1987) p. 37-53.
Architecture d'aujourd'hui no. 237 (Feb 1985) p. LIX-LX, 1-58.
Architecture Mouvement Continuite, no. 9 (Oct 1985) p. 4-45
Historic England Research Report: English Schools 1962-88 A Thematic Study. Franklin, G., with Harwood, E., Taylor, S., and Whitfield, M.
Tubular structures no. 47 (January 1989) p.12-13
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
End of official listing