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Architecture Initiative completes ‘garden school’ in Tower Hamlets

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The school provides space for over 700 pupils on a tight site in Bow

Replacing a single-storey structure built in 1982, the new scheme for Olga Primary School brings greater density with two distinct, three-storey elements separated by a glazed atrium: a teaching block and an administrative and community block, along with a standalone brick pavilion housing a Sure Start Children’s Centre.

The teaching block is built from brick to reference its neighbours, while the community block is clad in Cor-ten steel, cantilevering over an entrance podium. Classrooms are arranged around the full-height atrium, across which bridges provide connections between the blocks. 

A series of roof terraces has been designed to give the feeling of ’walking through treetops’, giving back some of the outdoor space occupied by the new buildings.

Architecture initiative olga primary school © andy stagg (6)

Source: Andy Stagg

Architect’s view

Our aim is to ensure that a new generation of schools inspires and nurtures learning. Olga Primary School has been designed to interact with nature in different ways at each level, creating a variety of experiences and teaching environments beyond the standard classroom. This vertical approach allows the school itself to encourage awareness of biodiversity, ecology and nature, which is often rare in an inner city school. The building is highly energy efficient, with natural ventilation, heat recovery systems and a highly insulated building fabric to help achieve its BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.

Lee Mainwaring, design director, Architecture Initiative

Architecture initiative olga primary school floor plans

Client’s view

The project to expand Olga Primary School from one-form entry to three contributes to the council’s overall programme to meet the need for additional school places for the rising school population. The council’s partnership with Architecture Initiative has resulted in a learning environment that is stimulating, invigorating, and engaging. The design of Olga School offers fantastic teaching space and teaching terraces. Olga School and the community are proud of the amount of green spaces and mature trees which create a refreshing alternative in a highly developed residential area. 

Duncan Cameron, building development, London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Project data

Start on site June 2017
Completion November 2017
Gross internal floor area 3,200m²
Form of contract or procurement route Design & Build
Development cost £11.3 million
Architect Architecture Initiative 
Client Tower Hamlets Ltd & London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Structural engineer CTP
M&E consultant Kaizenge
Quantity surveyor / cost consultant John Perkins & Associates
Project manager Tower Hamlets Schools Limited
Main contractor Higgins Construction
CAD software used Revit

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