Love it or hate it, Pimlico School is going to be pulled down. The Brutalist secondary school building in SW1 has been simultaneously revered and reviled for years, in similar ways to London’s other Brutalist buildings such as the Greater London Council Traffic Island, the Royal Festival Hall and Trellick Tower. While some of these stark, clumpy concrete buildings survive endless criticism relatively intact, others face a jazzed-up reincarnation or complete annihilation at the hands of a child.
Pimlico School has long been revered for its bold, stark, raw style and reviled for the common drawbacks attached to these stylistic elements: floor to ceiling glass windows and large expanses of bare, unadorned concrete means the school is a freezing cold box in winter and a sweltering greenhouse in summer. Whatever respect it has among the architectural community the school has never been granted a listed bulding status so it too will go the way of the Greater London Council Traffic Island and be torn down, thankfully not for more “retail and residential opportunities” but for a whole new school building. Perhaps made of bricks this time. With smaller windows. And maybe a curve here and there.
The re-build of Pimlico school is part of the Building Schools for the Future initiative, a government investment into improving school buildings and environments. Let’s hope they get it right: Pimlico School already has a good reputation for its teaching, its special music programme and, well, generally avoiding being picked as the Evening Standard’s favourite inner London comprehensive secondary school from hell (“Teachers threatened by knife-wielding pupils! Students caught pushing drugs in staff toilets!” and so on…) It would be a shame not to (literally) build on this.
However, the look of London will certainly lose something with the demolition of the GLC Traffic Island and Pimlico School – but are we better off without these clunky, concrete “carbuncles” or will we miss these two examples of architecture that did something very different for London’s architecture and landscape? Jubilation and / or commiseration welcome…
Picture of Pimlico School from the Art and Architecture website here.