You may not have heard of the CLASP system of building, but you’ve probably seen examples in school yards or railway stations since the 1960s. We take a look at the history of this revolutionary system.
CLASP, or the Consortium of Local Authorities Special Programme, was formed in 1957 against the backdrop of World War II to combat the pressing need to build and rebuild, combining and pooling local authority resources. The solution came from the Nottinghamshire county architect, Donald Gibson, who devised a method of building schools using prefabrication, and developed it alongside a number of personnel from the Hertfordshire local authority. A modular system using prefabricated light gauge steel frames allowed a maximum height of four storeys, and could be finished in a variety of claddings, meaning that the end result could be varied according to aesthetic values and circumstance. This system could also withstand subsidence caused by mining due to crucial new techniques developed in the cold rolled steel frame construction, including a pin-jointed frame and vibrating roller base. This led to the system being nicknamed the ‘rock and roll’ system. By combining local authority resources, significant cost reductions could be made through standardising components and serial contracting. A number of education buildings were built using CLASP, including the famous Hunstanton School in Norfolk and much of the University of York, and the scheme was later adopted by British Rail for station facilities, as well as adapted for use in constructing offices and housing. Sadly, traditional CLASP buildings fell out of favour somewhat following the general move away from system building, with critics defining CLASP as ‘collection of loosely assembled steel parts’. However, CLASP still exists today, utilising much more modern methods of system building and making sustainability a key part of the scheme, but the technology behind it has changed so significantly from the 1950s that it has been renamed Scape.