Shortlisted for the RIBA East Midlands Award
We are delighted to announce that Architecture Initiative has been shortlisted for the East Midlands RIBA Award 2019. Our project, Northampton International Academy, has seen a derelict Royal Mail Sorting Centre converted into an inspiring school setting for over 2,200 pupils.
Northampton County Council has commented on the project, endorsing the adaptation and rejuvenation of what is now a community hub for Northampton.
‘Looking back, we never imagined that it would be possible to transform this building into such a monumental landmark asset for Northampton.
For 11 years the derelict former Royal Mail sorting office stood empty on Barrack Road, attracting anti-social behaviour that blighted and isolated the local community. We needed to tackle these challenging issues for the greater benefit of the people of Northampton.
Due to the building’s formerly dark and uninviting appearance, it was hard to conceive how we could give it a new purpose and lease of life. At times demolishing it and starting again seemed to be the only option, but the figures just didn’t stack up. The building didn’t obviously lend itself to opportunities and many prospective purchasers shied away from even attempting to reimagine its position within the community.
Northampton had a desperate need for school places, and we knew the sheer size of the building had significant potential, but it resembled anything but a school. We approached Architecture Initiative and asked them to assess how, if at all, we could transform this unloved place into an academic offering for the local area.
We were met with a hugely positive response. Their vision for Northampton International Academy, whilst hard to imagine when we first stood in the neglected building back in 2014, inspired us to rethink the way we saw the space and turn what seemed like a problem into an opportunity. It was clear that Architecture Initiative weren’t put off by challenging sites, in fact, they embraced this project and thrived on its complexity. This is down to several factors; the strength of the partnership we formed, their clear vision and expertise, their rare commercial understanding and ability to collaborate well with other experts in the built environment sector.
Through this transformative scheme, Architecture Initiative have created an extensive, high-quality, sustainable and architecturally impressive education facility. Together we have preserved a significant building in Northampton’s industrial history that can now be enjoyed and embraced for generations to come.
The combination of a modest acquisition and an intelligent, cost-effective conversion means this school is less expensive than an equivalent new-build, yet unlike many modern educational spaces, it provides a truly inspiring teaching environment for pupils and staff alike. Within the current economic climate and considering the restraints and lack of funding for school buildings, the outcome at Northampton International Academy sets a benchmark for the future of educational spaces. Having only recently opened, the development of the site is already having positive knock-on effects for the socio-economic regeneration of the local area.
Architecture Initiative took a building that was a liability to the local area, an icon of neglect and abandonment, and made it iconic for genuine positive and aspirational reasons. The finished academy is a real achievement for everyone involved.’