Hitchin Boys School (HBS) is located in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Some guy called Herbert Tompkins once said, “Hitchin is an ancient market town, full of interest”. The guidebooks eat that image up, advertising that it is ‘the principal town of North Hertfordshire retaining [that] interest. To me though it is just your bog-standard ‘home counties’ town, complete with its predominantly white middle-class population. HBS sits nicely within this conservative image, priding itself on traditionality and excellence since 1632. Our frustration towards the oppressive systems was commonly voiced through misbehaviour, even leading to the establishment of a student-led ‘fight club’.
Pupils displaying ‘offensive’ behaviour that differed from the cultural standards of the white middle class were essentially criminalised; whilst environments such as corridors and changing rooms actually enabled boy-boy conflict. Teachers effectively ignored this hyperviolence. They avoided recognising the implicit machoism from their own formative years until a boys-will-be-boys school was constructed. Spaces that teach not for grades - but to redesign masculinity - must be provided if boys want to be more than boys.
My research explores HBS’ ‘threshold spaces’. The infrastructure that classrooms are built off of and from. Where the constitutions between school and student blur, and the crucial lessons on life, masculinity and violence occur. Where patriarchal motifs, disguised as traditionality, are architecturally framed and enforced, ingraining toxicity into the school’s fabric. This observation suggests that this boys-will-be-boys culture does not necessarily exist only among the students. I propose that this culture has actually polluted the entire architectural structure of the school, slowly but violently acting on its inhabitants.