The development of school construction systems in Hertfordshire 1946-64
Though no comprehensive study has been made of them previously, the post-war Hertfordshire Schools are well known for progressive design and for pioneering prefabrication on a large scale. In Part 1 the background to Hertfordshire's building programme is examined in the light of the 1944 Education Act and post-war population growth coupled with severe shortages of conventional building materials and labour. Part 2 explores Hertfordshire's response to this challenge: rejecting the use of war-time hutting for new primary schools, construction offering more permanency, and freedom to design a proper teaching environment was sought. A prototype was built and a vital process of "development," informing both construction and design, emerges as the key to progress. The process is shown to have begun with the adoption of a set of novel, but existing, building components; continuing analysis, modification and selective substitution led to the evolution of an integrated constructional system. Close collaboration with both clients and manufacturers ensured that optimum fitness-for-purpose in relation to cost was achieved. The interest created by this new type of architecture is discussed before turning, in Part 3, to its extension to the more complex needs of secondary schools and colleges. It is shown that once the approach was established the main challenge was organisational; alternative materials and modules, together with internal questionings of its validity in changing conditions, were all absorbed by the development process. The approach was emulated by others who introduced the consortium idea to ensure economical component manufacture; the period reviewed ends with the formation of the South Eastern Architects Collaboration (SEAC). It is strikingly clear that the influence of modernist architectural precepts, per se, was negligible. Yet by a remorseless objectivity of design the schools achieved, perhaps uniquely, the fullest realisation of Modern Movement principles, a matter of significance to architectural history.