Northampton

Ex-Northampton sorting office-turned-school up for award

Princess Diana
Image caption Princess Diana opening the sorting office in Northampton in 1981

A building opened by Princess Diana on her first solo engagement is up for a prestigious architectural award after a complete transformation.

Northampton's Royal Mail sorting office opened in 1981, but shut in 2003 following a fire.

It remained derelict for years but was eventually converted into Northampton International Academy.

It has now been given an East Midlands Award by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

It will go forward to the national awards later this month.

The princess opened the sorting office three months after marrying Prince Charles.

Image caption The one-acre site was gutted by fire in 2003
Image caption One postal worker revealed the depot regularly handled letters from the princess to her father Earl Spencer at Althorp

But after its closure the site fell into disrepair, and plans to turn it into a supermarket fell through in 2012.

Then in 2014 plans were approved for the 2,400-pupil school.

The majority of the building work was completed for the start of the school term in September 2018.

Image caption The school will eventually have 2,400 pupils, making it the largest in Northampton
Image caption The school has restored some of the original features, such as the ceiling

Tim Marston, the school's head teacher, said: "It's a wonderful canvas on which some very talented people come in and paint."

He said he appreciated the recognition for the building but "the reward we get is being able to use it every day".

Image caption The classrooms have been arranged around the perimeter to benefit from natural light and ventilation

The Royal Institute of British Architects described the original building as a "moribund early 1980s brutalist postal sorting office".

But it was now "boldly chopping lightwells through the slab, it's introduced a clear language of new teaching interventions".

Rowan Parnell from architects Architecture Initiative said it was a huge transformation, with one floor originally a car park and home to "about 1,000 pigeons".

Image caption Princess Diana, on her first solo engagement, opened the sorting office on Barrack Road

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