Westminster Academy architect Paul Monaghan says government risks wasting “last six years”

The architect of the multi-award-winning Westminster Academy has mounted a robust defence of the profession’s role in school building.

Paul Monaghan, director and co-founder of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM), warned the government its policies risked wasting six years of progress in school design.

Speaking at an event in London, Monaghan said: “We seem to be moving to a situation where its money or education and at the moment money seems to be winning.

“I don’t want to see that the last six years have been wasted.”

AHMM is best known for designing Westminster Academy, a £32m secondary school in west London that has won 15 design awards.Monaghan said the academy provided evidence school design can have a beneficial impact on communities. “Crime has fallen in the area and results have gone from one of the worst to one of the highest in just two years.”

The architect criticised the growing trend towards compressing the design stage on tenders. He said: “It’s time versus design quality. Design is an iterative process - you need to go down cul-de-sacs and come back.

“You’ll have a situation where clients use the first thing you draw and that can’t be good.”

During a speech at the annual BSEC conference in London the architect also raised concerns about where the government’s cuts will come.

“My impression is they’re looking to save on acoustics, space and ventilation. I believe there are savings to be made in acoustics but you can’t skimp on areas like ventilation.

“I expect design will be pretty fixed. There will be less modular solutions, break-out spaces and personalized learning.”

Paul Monaghan on school design

  • “Use simple building shapes - complicated shapes take you nowhere and are less flexible.”
  • “We spent £75k on branding at Westminster Academy. I implore people to spend money on that.”
  • “Standardisation can be good. You can use the same components to produce projects with different characters.”
  • “Separate ICT out from school design and let the experts deal with that.”