Beyond Bauhaus - Chapter Three Modern Education

On the centenary of the opening of Germany's most famous art school, RIBA's exhibition 'Beyond Bauhaus' revisited its influence on UK architecture built for education.

By Royal Institute of British Architects

This story is based on the exhibition Beyond Bauhaus: Modernism in Britain 1933-66, displayed at RIBA Architecture Gallery, 2019.

Cadmore Lane Junior School, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire (1959) by Architect: Geoffrey Charles Fardell (1910-2001) and Hertfordshire County Council, Architects Department and Photographer: John PantlinRoyal Institute of British Architects

This story explores the influence of the Bauhaus émigrés - the architect and founder of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius, designer Marcel Breuer and the artist László Moholy-Nagy - on the design of educational buildings in the UK from the late 1930s onwards.

New Whitgift Grammar school, Haling Park, Croydon, London (1931) by Architect: Leathart & Granger and Photographer: Sydney NewberyRoyal Institute of British Architects

Earlier school designs

Inter-war schools were architecturally varied, including the more traditional,  like New Whitgift Grammar School, Croydon, 1931. This style was popular as it gave an image of tradition and order. It was deemed appropriate for schools as levels of detail could be varied for different budgets.

Nursery school, Bradburns Lane, Hartford, Northwich (1938) by Architect: Sir Leslie Martin (1908-2000), Sadie Speight (1906-1992)Royal Institute of British Architects

As seen in Chapter 2, a modern architectural language was already present in the design of houses in the early 1930s. These changes were also taking place in schools. This kindergarten in Hartford, Cheshire, by Leslie Martin and Sadie Speight, 1934, is an early example of modernism in school design in Britain, with a flexible layout and pre-fabricated parts.

Lady Bankes School, Ruislip, London (1936) by Architect: Howard William Burchett (1883-1960); William Thomas Curtis (b. 1879) and Photographer: Sydney W. NewberyRoyal Institute of British Architects

London's Lady Bankes School, is another example of modernist developments being seen in school designs. There is a Scandinavian influence in the rounded tower form, also present in other buildings of the time, such as Arnos Grove tube station. This shows a developing modern language across British public buildings.

Village College, Impington (1939) by Photographer: Dell & Wainwright and Architects: Edwin Maxwell Fry (1899-1987), Walter Gropius (1883-1969)Royal Institute of British Architects

Impington Village College, Cambridgeshire, UK

Gropius's arrival in Britain in 1934 furthered these experiments with modernism. His most significant work during his short - yet highly influential - time in Britain would be Impington Village College, designed with Maxwell Fry, 1938-40.

Village College, Impington (1936) by Architects: Edwin Maxwell Fry (1899-1987), Walter Gropius (1883-1969)Royal Institute of British Architects

Like the Bauhaus school in Weimar, the plan for Impington Village College separates out different spaces for different functions.

The wings of the buildings meant classrooms had easy access to the rural landscape and nature, which surrounded the structure. 

Village College, Impington (1939) by Architects: Edwin Maxwell Fry (1899-1987), Walter Gropius (1883-1969) and Photographer: Dell & WainwrightRoyal Institute of British Architects

Large, well-placed windows ensured maximum daylight and ventilation. The building sought to promote good health and learning, in a functional, clear, yet beautiful, design.

Village College, Impington (1939) by Architects: Edwin Maxwell Fry (1899-1987), Walter Gropius (1883-1969)Royal Institute of British Architects

It included community facilities and embraced the ideals of lifelong education, catering for adults and children alike. The building stood as a model for what post-war education could be and established the character of many later school buildings.

You can also see the influence of the Bauhaus in the school's logo. Integrating the primary colours red, yellow and blue, as well as the circle, square, and triangle shapes. 

Hertfordshire Primary Schools Group (1952) by Architects: Charles Herbert Aslin (1893-1959), R. Brewerton, Charles M Cuthill, A. Donnan, R.H. Haynes, Dan W Lacey (1923-1985), V. Lee, M. Mason, Henry Swain (1924-2002), A.P Tait, M Wolicki and Photographer: John PantlinRoyal Institute of British Architects

The Hertfordshire Schools

Pioneering in design and construction, the Hertfordshire schools were created in response to the 1944 Education Act's schools expansion in the UK. While not the work of Gropius, his influence is felt. Stirrat Johnson-Marshall (a key Hertfordshire County Council architect) took on Gropius' philosophy of 'total architecture', inspired by a lecture of his, which he attended at Liverpool University in 1934.

Cheshunt Junior Mixed and Infants' school, Hertfordshire. (1949) by Architects: Charles Herbert Aslin (1893-1959), Hertfordshire County Council, Architects Department and Photographer: Colin WestwoodRoyal Institute of British Architects

Cheshunt Junior School was the first of these schools. Classrooms were arranged around courtyards to facilitate outdoor learning and a standardised grid system controls the whole design. Led by Mary Crowley, this was a collaborative project - again an influence of Bauhaus attitudes.

Cadore Lane Junior School, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire (1959) by Architects: Geoffrey Charles Fardell (1910-2001); Hertfordshire County Council, Architects Department and Photographer: John PantlinRoyal Institute of British Architects

Over 10 years, the council built 100 schools, using steel frames and pre-fabricated panels, making them simple and fast to construct. Cadmore Lane Junior School, Cheshunt, is an example from the late 1950s. 

Design for Cadmore Lane Junior School, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire (1958) by Architects: Charles Herbert Aslin (1893-1959), Geoffrey Charles Fardell (1910-2001), Hertfordshire County Council, Architects Department and P StipkovitsRoyal Institute of British Architects

The plan shows the modular layout and high number of windows. Standardised parts gave way to many layout possibilities, and plans  could be easily varied across Hertfordshire schools to suit different needs. 

Eveline Lowe primary school, Marlborough Road, Camberwell, Southwark, London (1966) by Architects: Great Britain. Department of Education & Science. Development Group and Photographer: Henry GrantRoyal Institute of British Architects

The scheme in Hertfordshire had a big impact on schools throughout the UK. Eveline Lowe Primary School, in Camberwell, south east London, by David Medd, is a fine example. Here, an open plan and screens are used to create a child-centred, flexible learning environment.

Design for interior flooring layouts (1950) by Architects: Oliver Jasper Cox (1920-2010) and Creator: Oliver Jasper Cox (1920-2010)Royal Institute of British Architects

Bauhaus influence can also be seen in the geometric interior designs and experimental colour schemes of the Hertfordshire schools, as these drawings of Carpenders Park School in Oxhey show.

Carpenders Park School, Oxhey, Hertfordshire. (1950) by Architects: Oliver Jasper Cox (1920-2010) and Creator: Oliver Jasper Cox (1920-2010)Royal Institute of British Architects

The bold blocks of primary colours are representative of the Bauhaus visual language.

The bold blocks of primary colours are representative of the Bauhaus visual language.

Carpenders Park School, Oxhey, Hertfordshire. (1950) by Architects: Oliver Jasper Cox (1920-2010) and Creator: Oliver Jasper Cox (1920-2010)Royal Institute of British Architects

Shapes from the light flooding through from the large window panes, also transform and structure the space, creating geometric forms.

Ziggurats', University of East Anglia Campus, Norwich. (1968) by Architects: Denys Lasdun & Partners and Photographer: Bill ToomeyRoyal Institute of British Architects

Universities

The expansion of higher education in later decades also has interesting links back to the Bauhaus émigrés. Denys Lasdun's stepped concrete  Ziggurats for the University of East Anglia, for example, reference Breuer's 1928 Elberfeld Hospital scheme. 

Designs for New Court, Christ's College, Cambridge: an axonometric section (1970) by Architects: Denys Lasdun & PartnersRoyal Institute of British Architects

So too does Lasdun's building at Christ's College, Cambridge, 1966-70. Such buildings begin to show the sustained and varied influence of the Bauhaus émigrés on educational buildings in Britain. 

This narrative is part of a series, exploring the influence and importance of the Bauhaus within the UK. Continue the story by looking at how the teachers from the Bauhaus influenced Britain in Chapter One and Chapter Two the modern home.

Credits: Story

Explore more from RIBA Collections here. All images are from RIBA Collections unless listed. 

 
Lady Bankes School, Ruislip, London. Rights: Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Collections 
Science laboratory, Village College, Impington. Rights: Dell & Wainwright / RIBA Collections
Hertfordshire Primary Schools Group, image of the group of architects. Rights: Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Collections 
Cheshunt Junior Mixed and Infants' School, Hertfordshire. Rights: Colin Westwood / RIBA Collections
Eveline Lowe Primary School, Marlborough Road, Camberwell, Southwark, London. Rights: Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Collections 
Ziggurats', University of East Anglia Campus, Norwich. Rights: Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Collections 
Presentation drawing of designs for New Court, Christ's College, Cambridge: an axonometric section. Rights: Lasdun Archive / RIBA Collections

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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