Evelyn Grace

Realising an innovative school building, designed by acclaimed architect Zaha Hadid

This visually stunning specialist sports academy provides a supportive and stimulating educational space for 1,200 pupils and the wider community. We made the design a reality.

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Evelyn Grace Project summary


Department for Children, Schools and Families (Now the Department for Education), Ark Academy

Key partners

Bamber and Reddan, Zaha Hadid, Capita Symonds, Davis Langdon

Services provided

Contracting, Construct


Education, Sectors


UK and Europe, UK - London and south-east England

Project timeline

Start date
April 2008
End date
September 2010

Project story

In 2010, we successfully delivered the Evelyn Grace Academy, the first school designed by the late, legendary architect Zaha Hadid for our clients.

With our meticulous focus and attention to detail, the project was completed within 80 weeks, enabling the school to be ready for the start of the new school term.

Praised for its imaginative design - its fits snugly into an extremely tight site - the Academy won the Royal Institute for British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize in 2011 - a result of the strong and cohesive partnership that was developed between us, the client and the architect’s team.

We brought value to the project by providing crucial 'buildability' and engineering advice to make the inspiring, striking design a reality. Our expertise meant we were able to bring the project within budget, without design changes compromising the approved planning consent.
Evelyn Grace Academy Playground - Mace Group

Project stats

200 children accommodated in temporary buildings on the site's footprint
£3m trimmed off the budget through value engineering
80 weeks to achieve structural completion

Points of note

Bringing the project back into line

We were appointed to the project after the previous contractor pulled out. The first challenge we met was to bring the project into line with its proposed budget, saving £3m through a value engineering programme. 

Stakeholder engagement

We kept stakeholders up to date as the Academy took shape. Our team held weekly informal ‘keep in touch’ meetings with our client, and the academy's staff and students were invited to attend presentations and site tours during the build.

Full visibility for the architects

Mock-ups were an invaluable tool, proving the feasibility of the design of features such as curtain walling, opening lights and curved feature banding. They enabled us to prove what was possible before production went ahead and allowed the architects full visibility from the outset.

Delivering sustainability

Sustainability was at the project's heart. Systems and materials, including biomass boilers, photo-voltaic cells, sustainable cladding and natural ventilation, all helped to minimise the carbon footprint and increase environmental friendliness.

Overcoming construction headaches

Striking design features can often mean construction headaches. In this case, the use of visual concrete that provides ‘free cooling’ during the summer was an obstacle we had to overcome. We did so by constructing and testing sample panels to ensure we could deliver a high-quality finish that was true to the design.

Local employment

Our community regeneration programme helped to break down barriers to employment through providing advice, guidance, mentoring, educational training and job opportunities for local people.

Architecture for everyone

“It is very significant that our first project in London is the Evelyn Grace. Schools are among the first examples of architecture that everyone experiences and have a profound impact on all children as they grow up. I am delighted that the Evelyn Grace Academy has been so well received.”

Significant impact

“A fantastic result for Evelyn Grace – we are delighted to have been involved in such an exceptional project which has clearly made a significant impact on the students, staff and local residents.”