Sunday 18th September and this enchanting school had thrown open its doors to an awaiting and admiring wider world – I know, I was there, having travelled down by train from Manchester with my pal Natalie, we were more than delighted by what we discovered, on our grand day out.
This Grade II* listed building was one of two primary schools designed in 1949 by architect, Erno Goldfinger (1902 – 1987), an influential figure in the British Modernist Movement. Opened in 1952, it was originally named Westville Road School, and in 1987, the same year Goldfinger died, it was renamed Greenside School. The building earns the star on its listing due to the fine mural in the entrance foyer by architectural artist and urban theorist Gordon Cullen (1914 – 1994).
The school was built in response to the need to create a better Britain after the Second World War and inspired by the optimistic influences expressed in the Festival of Britain in 1951. The school is on the site of a Victorian Board School, built in 1886 to accommodate 1200 children and offer a ‘serviceable education at very low fees.’ The old school was bombed in 1944, fortunately after the evacuation of the children. The London County Council had plans to build temporary schools after the war as sets of Ministry of Works huts, but Goldfinger proposed an alternative scheme using a precast reinforced concrete frame with brick infill. One of the reasons that the LCC were persuaded to adopt his scheme was that the main hall would be joined to the school via a covered corridor.
The Gordon Cullen mural in the entrance foyer is more evidence of Goldfinger creating an inspiring learning environment. Goldfinger had worked during the war mounting exhibitions to send to the troops
on subjects such as ‘Food’, ‘Cinema’, ‘the Eastern front’ and ‘Planning Your Home’, so often working with Cullen to do the graphics and illustrations. He then commissioned Cullen to produce a mural on school subjects: Invention, History, The Sea, Geography, The Solar System and Nature. Completed in 1953, Cullen’s mural takes on the character of simplified but nonetheless stimulating detail found in the new generation of factual books of the time, among which the Puffin Picture Books series has become the best known. After many years hidden, we are delighted that the summer of 2014 we were able to unveil the restored mural. This was due to the commitment and dedication of the Friends of the Greenside Mural. It is a valuable source of inspiration for our students.
My thanks to the website of Greenside School
Preserving as much as possible of the building’s features and the ethic of its time, it was a pleasure to walk the corridors, explore the classrooms and main hall. I was particularly enchanted by the warm, wide sloping curve of the corridor which conjoins the two main volumes.
Emphasis is placed on experiential learning and full use is made of the outside spaces. The curriculum is currently constructed around cinematic themes, scholars participating in film making and an interdisciplinary approach to learning.
Take a look at lovely lively learning areas, and an architectural heritage that remains consistent with its intent, whilst having a clear and steady eye, on a rich and rewarding future.