Parliament Hill Secondary School

Over a three year programme, SWA worked simultaneously with adjacent secondary schools, Parliament Hill and William Ellis, to implement a phased, creative renewal programme to revitalise and modernise established teaching spaces.

Our work at Parliament Hill School focused on the original, historic 1990’s Victorian Board School building – the Morant building. SWA’s works coincided with the construction of new accommodation to the rear of the building, and a new sixth form building which fronts onto Highgate Road, done by others.

The refurbishment of the Morant building at PHS was split into two phases, spanning several years. The first package of work completed was the Art & Design Department on the second (top) floor, where the whole floor was refurbished to improve and provide facilities for art, design, photography and textiles. The second phase included the remaining three floors, where classrooms were combined and modernised to suit current teaching and class sizes, whilst historic features of the original school building were restored and celebrated. A new social staff space was also created on the lower ground floor, with a kitchenette and integrated workspaces for collaboration and focused work.

Client: LB Camden / Parliament Hill Secondary School
Completion: Phase 1 – 2017, Phase 2 – 2019
Cost: £970,000 
Location: Highgate, London


I have not only found SWA to be consistently diligent and timely with their work but enjoyed the energy and fresh thinking they have always brought. I have never found them to be difficult or aloof, but always keen to discuss the intricacies of any project detail, and very thorough in their consultations with stakeholders. As is often the case with education projects, I have worked with SWA under very tight restrictions, both in terms of time and budgets. They have never let me down when I needed a swift response or an innovative and cost-effective solution to a problem. I can honestly say their performance has been first class throughout.”

Tim Rushforth, Project Manager, on behalf of LB Camden

Plan diagram highlighting the extent of SWA’s work at neighbouring Parliament Hill School and William Ellis School
Natural and Robust

Rooms throughout the historic Morant Building benefit from high ceilings, large sash windows, and period detailing. However, the spaces had become full of redundant services in need of coordination and required a refresh. Furthermore, class sizes had increased so multiple rooms were reconfigured to offer sufficiently sized classrooms.

A simple material palette was used to unify the different elements of the school. SWA worked with the school to develop a strong aesthetic approach based on the school’s colour scheme and original building details. Dependant on the primary use and architectural identify of each floor of the Morant Building, a palette was developed. The style of the art room on the second floor is artistic and experimental, the classrooms and offices on the first and ground floor is clean and focused, and the lower ground floor is creative and industrial, inspired by exposed wall tiles and services. For example, on this floor, yellow paint is used as an accent along structural beams with matching industrial lights.

The design response included the restoration of richly colourful original tiling and elegant oak parquet flooring. Throughout the Morant Building, original green tiling up to dado rail height was repaired and polished. Walls, ceilings, and services were freshly painted, new flooring laid and new LED lighting installed. Bright colours are used against a white background to highlight existing architectural features and bring new vibrancy to the classrooms – this is particularly evident in the roof spaces on the second floor.

Axo drawing highlighting the phased scope of work at PHS
Photo highlighting re-use of existing furniture within design of teaching walls
Photo of bespoke teaching walls

We worked closely with members of staff at the school to ensure the changes fully reflected their pedagogy and teaching requirements. New teaching walls made of natural and robust plywood were designed to store teaching materials and assist the creation and presentation of art and design work.

In the art rooms, these make use of existing storage such as plan chests and drying racks. Working with Camden’s in-house ICT contractors, the new teaching wall cabinetry was installed with surface mounted trunking to future proof against later amendments to layout or digital technology.

Functional and Graceful
Art room with feature lighting in PHS yellow

As part of the first phase of works, SWA restored the functionality of the various existing windows, working closely with OR Consulting and employing environmental modelling software to design optimal ventilation which is fully controllable by teachers and students.

Graceful new lighting compositions create ideal levels of illumination and bring a dynamic and exciting element to the classrooms. We also created a new darkroom for the photography department. All lighting is LED for longevity and the same specification has been used throughout all classrooms for ease of maintenance.

SWA worked closely with the school and Camden to ensure that works which satisfied both the Council’s and the School’s needs could be delivered within the tight programme and budget. Priority was given to maintenance work and general repairs for health and safety.

Photographs by Beccy Lane