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Hayhurst & Co completes ‘activity lab’ for north London school

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Addition of a ‘turret’ provides double-height teaching space at Kentish Town primary

Hayhurst and Co has completed a science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) activity lab for Torriano Primary School in Kentish Town, North London. The extension comes in the form of a two-storey ‘turret’, its front elevation clad in shiny shingles and with an external learning terrace at the top of the locally listed building. The space provides a laboratory where pupils can carry out science and technology experiments.

The scheme’s external south-facing terrace contains plants in bespoke growing troughs, while the face of the extension is clad in polished stainless steel in contrast with the existing school building.

01 kilo 0279 0021

01 kilo 0279 0021

Following consultation with staff, pupils and an artist-in-residence to understand the type of activities that might take place in the space, an internal superstructure was developed to enable things to be dropped from, hung, threaded through or projected onto.

The space is defined by CNC-cut, laminated plywood portal frames with decorative etched constellations. The space accommodates fold-down demonstration desks, projection equipment and various pieces of lab equipment. A small mezzanine floor allows students to gain additional height for activities. 

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14 kilo 0279 0019

Architect’s view

The project comprises the remodelling of a two-storey ‘turret’ at the top of the building of the existing Queen Anne- style, locally listed building.

This is a space where pupils can carry out physical tests as a means of learning. We worked with the schools’ pupils, the head teacher, science staff, and artist-in-residence Jack Cornell, to test, draw and model potential activities that the pupils might want to undertake in the space. This generated the idea of an internal superstructure that enables learning activities to take place: a structure from which things can be dropped from, draped over, threaded through, clamped to or projected onto.

The CNC-cut, laminated plywood portals facilitate these types of activities and help define the double-height teaching space. Constellations are etched into the faces of the timber. The space also includes fold-down demonstration desks, floor projection equipment and a mezzanine to enable students to gain additional height to undertake practical experiments.

Externally, the project has an external, south-facing terrace that includes plants in bespoke growing troughs. The face of the extension is clad in mirror-polished stainless steel, which contrasts with the clay tiles and lead-clad dormers of the existing building.

The school already features a gatehouse design by Edward Cullinan completed in 2009, a playground by Erect Architects, and a remodelled reception area completed by AY Architects in 2017.

Nick Hayhurst, director, Hayhurst & Co

17 hayhurst and co torriano design image

17 hayhurst and co torriano design image

Torriano design image

Client’s view

Camden devised a programme to help improve facilities for teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics at certain primary schools within the borough. The school came up with an excellent initial idea to make better use of under utilised areas of the Key Stage 2 building. The head teacher wanted a space that would inspire children of all ages in the school to want to learn more about science. We were keen to deliver this vision but, of course, within budget.

Hayhurst and Co understood the brief from day one. They showed a clear understanding of the school’s requirements, and were practical in dealing with budget and site constraints. The end result is a shining example of what can be achieved when the architects know what is expected of them, but also bring a little bit of magic to the table.

The teaching desks are a particular standout. They simultaneously look great and maximise the space. The real highlight though comes when they are opened on closed. The use of pulleys, winches pivots and heavy materials provides a practical session on forces, mechanics and motion.

The lab is truly a space to inspire young minds. There are wonderfully designed areas for identified uses. However, the design will allow the school to find new and innovative ways to use the lab well into the future.

Paul Greatbatch, project manager, London Borough of Camden 

Hc torriano axo

Hc torriano axo

Project data

Start on site October 2017
Completion date November 2018
Gross internal floor area 44m²
Gross internal and external floor area 52m²
Form of contract
 JCT Traditional 2016 with contractor’s design
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect Hayhurst & Co
Client London Borough of Camden
Structural engineer Iain Wright Associates
M&E consultant Edward Pearce
CDM coordinator Goddard Consulting
Approved building inspector Camden Building Control
Main contractor Bolt & Heeks
CAD software used Vectorworks 

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