Northampton school built on former 'eyesore' mailing office wins architecture award

Northampton International Academy has won a national architecture award.
Northampton International Academy has won a national architecture award.

A Northampton school built using a derelict Royal Mail centre in a £46million conversion project has won a national architecture award.

It took just over two years to open and was led by one of the biggest buildings projects of its kind - but Northampton International Academy has been named one of the boldest buildings of 2019 by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

The judges praised Architects Initiative for working with the 'brutalist' design of the former Royal Mail depot.

The judges praised Architects Initiative for working with the 'brutalist' design of the former Royal Mail depot.

The school in Barrack Road - which was undertaken by Architecture Initiative - has been named as one of three winning designs in the East Midlands at an awards ceremony on Thursday night (May 9).

The award panel's report on the building reads: "Architecture Initiative have taken a moribund early 1980s Brutalist postal sorting office and created a 2,200-pupil academy.

"Exploring the building is somewhat like walking around a hilltop village with glimpsed views to all levels, departments and years with the sixth form due to inhabit the uppermost level.

"This elevation sets out the bold strategy for the academy beyond, mixing new with old in a considered, but at the same time, playful manner to provide a focus for the local community rather than the eyesore it once was."

Judges praised how newly built lightwells cut the gloom of what was once a former sorting office.

Judges praised how newly built lightwells cut the gloom of what was once a former sorting office.

The academy was renovated out of the derelict Royal Mail Building in Barrack Road in a £46million project headed by the county council.

The former "brutalist" buidling was redesigned to provide up to 2,200 school places with a 400-seat theatre, a rooftop sports hall and classrooms for out-of-hours use.

The academy attracted some controversy, as the build ran £11million over budget and workmen were still on site when it marked its grand opening in September 2018.

Joshua Coleman, chief executive of East Midlands Academy Trust said: “It’s fantastic that the judges have recognised what an incredible school this is and that, together with our amazing teaching staff, pupils and wider community, this unique building makes Northampton International Academy a truly special place to learn and thrive.”

The full capacity of 2,200 will not be reached until approximately 2021, and currently has about 800 pupils in years 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9.