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Hunstanton Secondary Modern School
now Smithdon High School, Downs Road, Hunstanton, Norfolk
associated engineer
Ove Arup & Partners
date  1949 - 1954
UK era  Modern  |  category  Building  |  reference  TF677406
The uncompromising design and finishes of Hunstanton Secondary School — now known as Smithdon High School — led the way for many buidings to come in Britain, particularly in the 1960s. Its welded steel frame structure was a complete change from the concrete buildings with which engineer Ove Arup had made his name.
Arup's early career had seen him work on many of the most significant examples of Modern Movement concrete buildings in the UK, including the Penguin Pool at London Zoo (1935). He came to appreciate the possibilities that came from working closely with architects. His association with leading architects continued after he established the engineering consultancy Ove Arup & Partners in 1949.
The Hunstanton Secondary School project brought Ove Arup & Partners into contact with architects Peter and Alison Smithson, who had won a competition for its design. This was the first of their buildings to be realised.
The school uses rectilinear plan forms in a series of linked blocks. Its welded steel frame has solid and glazed infill panels. The whole has a quite harsh and unyielding finish to it. Peter Smithson (1923-2003) believed in the expressiveness of unembellished factory-made materials.
Smithson became Head of the Architectural Association (AA) in London, and forged links with the Pop Art movement, in both London and New York. However, he preferred the concepts of industrialisation and prefabrication, and the pragmatism of carefully worked-out design solutions, to the loose-fit plug-in visions of Archigram, the influential design group that coincidentally emerged at the AA during his tenure.
In the design for this school and other buildings, Ove Arup & Partners demonstrated an unerring ability to respond to the demands of leading architects, whatever style they pursued. Arups provided sympathic design input at crucial stages, allowing a freedom of architectural design, an engineering design approach they continue to follow even today.
Architects: Peter and Alison Smithson
Supervising engineer: Ron Jenkins of Ove Arup & Partners
Research: ND
"Modern Architecture, A Critical History" by Kenneth Frampton
Thames and Hudson, London, 1980
"Modern Movements in Architecture" by Charles Jencks
Penguin Books, Middlesex, 1973

Hunstanton Secondary Modern School