I have been fascinated by the networks of corruption developed by John Poulson -T Dan Smith's architect of choice - since my first teaching appointment in Bradford. On interview, I was greeted inside the front entrance: ‘See that curtain, it’s the curtain of shame,’ I was told. ‘If you take a look behind it you will see a plaque commemorating the opening of the school by - (then Home secretary) - Reginald Maudling.’
‘Ah,’ I replied. ‘The Silver Teapot Affair.’
Poulson designed the school with several key features, although I doubt they were unique. It was considered an innovation to have windows that could open inwards so that they could be cleaned from the inside. Unfortunately for the window cleaners, they only opened inwards on the ground floor. The lift shaft was not of sufficient size to contain a lift. The lengthy access road was only wide enough for one vehicle to use at one time, thus restricting access for emergency vehicles. Once the swimming pool had been built it had to be deepened at extra expense as it couldn’t safely take the plunge of children from the planned diving board. Then, the roof of the pool had to be raised once the pool had been deepened as it was pointed out that the diver could not stand on the board because the roof was too low.
My break time duty on my first day was to ‘patrol the covered area’. This area turned out to be a three sided hall with a roof. Money ran out for the fourth side and was never used as intended, as a gymnasium. However, the substantial number of pupil smokers did make use of it and didn’t appear to mind exposure to frequent snow, blown into blizzards by the wind that blasted across Europe from the Urals. Though they did mind my request to stop smoking, a request the scores of smokers also found amusing. Oh, and of course, the place was riddled with asbestos. Thankfully, that building has now been knocked down.
T. Dan Smith, once leader of Newcastle City Council, founded ‘Open System Building’, which Poulson came to run - both were jailed. I am currently navigating my way through the Newcastle section of Owen Hatherly’s ‘A guide to the new ruins of Great Britain,’ and Amber Films ’T. Dan Smith: a funny thing happened on the way to Utopia.’