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First look

‘Home from home’ nursery created by Delve Architects from doctors’ surgery

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A four-storey Victorian building in Parsons Green, south-west London has been transformed into a nursery school providing 50 places for children

The new nursery was designed to create a ‘home from home’ feel for children, with large open spaces intended to inspire creativity and facilitate interactions. Light and connection is maximised between teaching spaces, in a design infuenced by the ethos of the pedagogies taught at the school, which combines the Reggio-Emilia, Waldorf and Montessori traditions.

The nursery is spread over four floors, with each area designed with built-in joinery intended to suit a particular year group, from the tiered low-level seating under the basement skylight for one- and two-year olds to a bespoke reading area for the older three- and four-year old children on the first floor.

Delve parsons green nursery 5

Delve parsons green nursery 5

Source: Emanuelis Stasaitis

The existing basement level has been extended with large walkable-upon skylights bringing light down from the upper levels, intended to create an open feel at the lowest classroom level.

The ground floor classroom meanwhile features a distinctive oversized picture window and pivot door, creating a visual link and access for all year groups into the landscaped multi-use garden at the rear.

A key strategy has been to retain as much of the existing structure as possible and to sustainably restore the building while minimising the impact of the construction process. 

Delve parsons green nursery 9

Delve parsons green nursery 9

Source: Emanuelis Stasaitis

Architect’s view

We set out to create a new nursery for our clients through a sustainable retrofit of an existing building, providing as much interior space as possible while providing a sanctuary for young children to learn and explore. The project involved remodeling and retrofitting the entire building, including a new three-storey steel frame to support the removal of the spine walls at each level. The structural strategy was carefully balanced with the aim to retain the original Victorian characteristics and features, whilst creating open, spacious classrooms at every level.

The new classrooms each have their own identity and create a journey for the children through their time at the nursery. We designed various playful features such as the concrete water play sinks, secluded reading areas and bespoke joinery to engage with the children and fuel their imagination.

Alex Raher, project architect and director, Delve Architects

Delve parsons green nursery 10

Delve parsons green nursery 10

Source: Emanuelis Stasaitis

Engineer’s view

After consultation with the client and architect, it was clearly key to work towards a structural solution that was sympathetic to cost, time and the existing Victorian building.

The property had previously undergone remodelling works and so it was important, due to budget and time schedule, to ensure the existing structure was not significantly impacted by the design proposal. Therefore, exploratory works in the form of opening- up works and trial pits were carried out throughout the property to ascertain the form of the existing structure (i.e. floor joists, existing steels, foundations). This was done from the beginning at the design stage in order to have a clear idea of the structure present and how it can be efficiently co-operated within the design.

The dimensions of the ground floor joists were confirmed and found to be inadequate to span its increased length (and imposed loading). Therefore, ply was glued and screwed to the top of the joists in order to provide additional stiffness and capacity to span its distance.

A majority of this project involved intricate structural detailing – developing and finalising these was made effortless by constant communication with the architect.

Kanna Selvalingam, design engineer, Blue Engineering

Delve parsons green nursery 13

Delve parsons green nursery 13

Source: Emanuelis Stasaitis

Client’s view 

The clever utilisation of all available space was fundamental in making the most of the existing building and the project has been a resounding success in this endeavour. Creating an enabling learning environment which encourages independence and communication, as well as both physical and creative expression was of utmost importance for the project and we can honestly say that every aspect has been realised.

Alex Stansfield, director, Parsons Green Nursery

Delve parsons green nursery proposed aj article page 6

Delve parsons green nursery proposed aj article page 6

Source: Delve Architects

Section BB

Project Data

Start on site September 2019
Completion date May 2020
Gross internal floor area 276.2 m2 
Gross (internal + external) floor area 355.1 m2  (413.8 m2  including nursery garden)
Form of contract Traditional: JCT Intermediate Building Contract with Contractors Design (ICD)
Overall construction cost Undisclosed
Construction cost per m2 £1,600
Architect Delve Architects
Client Parsons Green Nursery
Structural engineer Blue Engineering
M&E consultant EB7
Party wall consultant Behan Partnership
Principal designer Delve Architects
Approved building inspector Head Projects Group
Main contractor Ecore Construction
CAD software used Vectorworks

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