Pimlico School is a gun-metal grey battleship adrift amongst the genteel stucco Georgian terraces of Pimlico. Built between 1965 and 1970, and designed by a team headed up by GLC architect John Bancroft, Pimlico School was initially well received, winning a clutch of awards for its glass and concrete structure. Yet fast forward to January 2008 and the future of this slice of late period Brutalism hangs in the balance. It has been slated for demolition, with the design for a new school, a U-shaped cream box, ready to be built as part of the UK Labour government’s 'Building Schools for the Future programme'.
Surrounded on three sides by tall terraces, Bancroft’s building, variously described as a 'futuristic-aircraft carrier' and a 'greenhouse', could not be more at odds with its neighbours. The site is huge, sunk deep below street level with ample space for tennis courts and playgrounds. In the middle, the building rises up like a docked submarine, its stepped multi-layered structure containing classrooms, halls, a library, special sixth form common room, indoor swimming pool, gymnasium and more.
Pimlico School has has had problems over the years, from the vandalised air conditioning system that generated greenhouse-like internal temperatures to a systematic lack of maintenance that shows in the crumbling concrete walls. Although the UK’s architectural establishment has called for a programme of sensitive refurbishment by RIBA, CABE and Twentieth Century Society amongst them - the building will be torn down.
Not even the vocal support of Richard Rogers and many of the school’s own teachers, pupils and parents have managed to swing the balance. Unless there is an eleventh hour reprieve, Bancroft’s self-confessed 'Hippocratic Oath' of a building for 'solidity, utility and delight' will all be for nothing, as his landmark work is painstakingly picked apart.