The Langley Academy by Foster + Partners


London architect Foster + Partners have completed an academy clad in wood in Berkshire, UK.

Called The Langley Academy, the project incorporates a three-storey building with a full-height atrium where 1,100 students can assemble.

Three yellow, cylindrical, two-storey volumes within this space house science laboratories.

Two arms leading outwards from the atrium are lined with 38 classrooms.

Vertical wooden louvers shade the building.

Students will be educated about science and environmental issues through the visible green features of the building, which include solar collectors, grey-water reuse, and a network of pipes illustrating how energy is collected and carried through the building.

Photographs are by Nigel Young.

Here's some more information from the architects:


Official opening for The Langley Academy

The Langley Academy, designed by Foster + Partners, is being officially opened today by Sir Matthew Pinsent CBE. It is an exemplar of sustainable design, a theme which is showcased by the building itself.

The first academy to specialise in museum learning, it also highlights rowing, cricket and science in its curriculum.

With an enclosed full-height atrium at the heart of the three-storey building, the social life of the school revolves around this assembly space for 1,100 students.

A recurrent element in several other of Foster + Partners’ academy buildings, the atrium is defined by a sense of transparency and openness – like a gallery of learning – which in this case also resonates with the museum theme. Inside the atrium there are three yellow drums raised above the floor on circular columns.

These two-storey pods house the Academy’s ten science laboratories, reinforcing the importance of science teaching.

A dedicated sports and culture block contains specialist facilities for music and drama including a fully equipped theatre, a TV and sound recording studio, soundproofed practice rooms and a rehearsal space, sports hall and lecture theatre.

The academy’s two light and airy covered streets extend from the atrium and are lined with 38 classrooms.

The environmental features save 20% in water consumption and approximately 150 tonnes of CO2 per year compared to a traditional academy and are used in the teaching of science and environmental issues.

Students can see the solar collectors on the roof and the workings of the exposed plant room, as well as the network of pipes that illustrate how energy is generated and carried through the building.

Rain water is collected and stored and grey water filtered for reuse in sanitation and irrigation; a system of horizontal louvers provides shade; and the building has been configured to allow out-of-hours use by the wider community, ensuring its sustainability over time.

Foster + Partners and Buro Happold collaborated on the environmental design.

Nigel Dancey, a senior partner and design director at Foster + Partners said:

“Environmental performance and appearance are indivisible at The Langley Academy. The school pioneers a revolutionary new educational concept which draws on the theme of museums and galleries, so that the school itself is like an exhibit, with its physical manifestation a showcase and educational tool for environmental design.”

Click for larger image

Museum Learning and the Academy’s Museum

The Langley Academy is the first school in the UK to provide Museum Learning and runs its own Museum. Museum Learning is more than just museum visits.

Click for larger image

Ancient artefacts and objects are brought into the classroom to spark questions, debate, analysis and provide connections across the curriculum.

Click for larger image

Museum Learning also provides unparalleled access to significant cultural institutions across the country and the Academy has run 12 museum visits so far this year, involving hundreds of students.

Click for larger image

Posted on Wednesday November 18th 2009 at 1:11 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • What a fascinating project! I’d be proud to attend and academy like this, and I’d probably be the envy of all my friends.

  • jp

    must be the worst project i’ve seen in a long time.. how impersonal do you want to make a school?

  • ew

    the interior looks like a prison. where is the natural daylight?

  • Jim

    The disconnect between the exterior and interior materiality seems too radical. Upon seeing the curving wood facade, I expected some of that ‘homely’ materiality to be reflected on the inside. Not particularily a fan.

  • I Can Has Cheeseburger

    I am a little surprise to see that Wilkinson Eyre Architects floor plan in here. Everyone knows it just doesn’t really work as a space! Like the elevational treatment!

  • Mehyma

    I think this is fantastic. Students really need a much better sort of learning environment than the typical, monotonous, locker-lined halls of most schools. I think that students would appreciate how the building resembles how we interact in real life, with quads and communal areas to gather and talk rather than being cramped and herded through tight hallway after hallway. I think that it is an excellent project and I’m curious / hopeful to see the impact that this has on future educational facilities.

  • The plan is beautiful. I wish that there were better pictures that captured the overall exterior of the building, but it is good to see a project that is not so focused on form.

  • dope


  • I see only a few “horizontal” louvers. Did the author mean “Vertical” for shade?

  • I agree with ew & Jim I don’t quite like the interiors.

  • andy

    It looks like the horizontal wood louvers in the bottom picture have no top protection from rain. Wouldn’t that wood degrade pretty fast in a few years of UK rain?

  • dt

    The building is okay, but just sooo soulless. It is literally a factory for school children. Has Mr Foster never read anything by Herman Hertzberger about place making?

  • Naimu

    the inside is a lot like fosters berlin-university-library excet this one doesnt have the curved roof.
    The same curved concrete walkways and such anyways.

  • chris

    foster and timber???

  • Alex Palmer

    Would have been better if the interior was built using ‘Cross Laminated Timber Panels’

  • tanya telford – T

    from what ive seen I think the interior of this building might be a little bit ground breaking in terms of school concepts. If im honest I dont really like the aesthetics but i bet the kids love it. I think the age they are means they probably want to do lots of exciting things and feel as grown up as possible – the interior looks quite grown up some how or other. And there looks like there’s loads to look at etc. I imagine they don’t get so board so easily. Also i really like the way there is space for them to gather – hang out – but not out of sight so kind of safer. The environmental stuff is great as well as all the facilities. The only thing id wish for (if i was there) is to have a couple of outside spaces – as inventive as the interior.

  • nat

    lets see how it’s going to look in a year,
    wooden claddings must be banned!

  • Harri Lewis

    What is the embodied energy of this building? It must be massive? Why aren’t we teaching kids to be sustainable? Why is this building not made out of timber, the only sustainable construction material…

  • Kathy

    Interesting choice to use wood on the exterior. Especially coming from the Foster group…. It´s surprising and cool looking. Well done!

  • gabs

    Thank you for the circular classrooms!!!!

  • Michael

    Definitely a sweet exterior aesthetic, but Harri has a good point…the embodied energy for the cladding, as well as up keep to sustain its color and texture will be an inconvenient expense.
    Wood cladding can be an effective weather barrier, as long as its detailed properly. There’s no detail showing what kind of cavity system they would have behind it (Although I’m sure F+P thought of something pretty neat)

  • justin

    See Foster’s Project at Stanford in 2004. Similar floorplan. Smaller Size. Different program. Same Shape.

  • SA

    I attend this academy, and study in year 10.
    I believe it excellently preceded Langleywood school.

  • olgv

    it seems I’m not the only one who see this as a prison ;)) …
    is this the outcome of every sustainable/green/energy renewable building ?

  • it looks nice and has lots of environmental solutions except the natural light i think there are many ways to use it more.
    but the facade and the shading system its really nice but is it functional??!?
    i think the best space is the open computers lap.

  • ahmed shungaly

    nice but it look like an old building ,cuz in the acadenies you have to show the building tecnology and modern materiol to students to imprive them to study more to have this vision

  • bayan

    the plan is beautiful

  • F.A

    The image with the students playing in the gym is not part of this building, its westminster academy in harrow road, london.

  • Johnny

    from the outside i was surprised, i liked it, but the inside is like a completely different building. What is with all exposed concrete in schools, zaha hadid won the stirling prize with this cold material. Except for a few hanging installations and colourful chairs this is not a stimulating environment for children, it could easily be a factory. Another foster academy is located in Barnet which is even worse, the most boring ridged building i have seen. What happened to the sense of feeling and emotion in architecture. It seems once an architect becomes famous they forget the reason they are architects and just churn out projects like factories. Once again I am disappointed with Fosters designs

  • Foster and wood, about time. Overdue. Well done.