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Nicholas Kirk Architects embeds ‘niches, nooks and crannies’ into Bermondsey nursery

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The £200,000 overhaul and extension aims to provide a series of clean and calm spaces for this south London nursery

Nicholas Kirk Architects has updated Bermondsey Community Nursery by adding a separate structure in the garden area, which has freed up space in the main nursery to accommodate an extra 10 children. The extension contains the office and staff accommodation and is clad in stained cedar.

New lighting, joinery and play facilities are part of the upgraded bathroom, nursery and outdoor areas, while new storage facilities and colour elements are designed to tie the main nursery spaces together. 

Bermondsey community nursery 35 © agnese sanvito

Bermondsey community nursery 35 © agnese sanvito

Architect’s view

Bermondsey Community Nursery occupies the ground floor of a converted former Victorian warehouse, in the heart of Butler’s Wharf. The nursery provides care for local children in a welcoming and safe environment.

As the nursery is located on a constrained urban site, we were asked to develop a scheme to maximise the footprint and accommodate an additional 10 children.

The office accommodation is separated from the main nursery in a striking, new stained cedar-clad construction at the main entrance. This building provides a point of arrival for parents and children and frees up valuable internal space in the main nursery. We worked closely with the trustees and staff to find new ways to improve the operational procedures and help maximise space for core activities.

To further improve the efficiency of the spaces, the design sought to declutter both internal and external areas through the installation of greater storage spaces and bespoke, multifunctional furniture. Tables can be reconfigured into different geometric patterns to accommodate flexible play and learning activities. Niches, nooks and crannies are embedded into the building fabric for the children to explore and interact with their environment.

A neutral colour palette was selected to create a clean and calm series of spaces, with flashes of colour act to playfully tie building elements together. Along with colour, areas are defined through texture to stimulate the senses and provide a subtle backdrop for different nursery activities to take place.

Nicholas Kirk, founder and director, Nicholas Kirk Architects

036 bermondsey community nursery, axo cutaway

036 bermondsey community nursery, axo cutaway

Client’s view  

The nursery started this project when it was awarded a grant from the council to help the nursery, which is a charity, to provide additional spaces for vulnerable two-year-olds. The nursery is located in a historic area of London, but one with high economic deprivation.

We were excited to work with Nicholas Kirk to refresh the whole nursery, enhancing some of the historic features of the listed building but also giving it a very modern and innovative look. We worked hand-in-hand with the architect to incorporate features that allow children to have a quiet space to explore and play, such as the wendy house in the garden and the reading nook in the main nursery space. I love the calm feeling in the nursery, which comes from the combination of subtle colours and features that let the natural light flow through from all sides.

Nicholas helped us expand the space for the children by designing a modern office in our garden, which gives staff the ability to see through to the garden and nursery. The design of the office is spacious yet compact and allowed us to not only preserve as much of our outside space for play as possible, but also meant that our Japanese maple tree could stay as a beautiful natural feature for the children’s enjoyment.

The community is so pleased with the outcome!

June Seymour, chair of trustees, Bermondsey Community Nursery 

036 bermondsey community nursery, plan view

036 bermondsey community nursery, plan view

Project data 

Start date on site February 2018
Completion date August 2018
Gross internal floor area 175m²
Gross (internal + external) floor area 243m²
Form of contract RIBA Concise Contract
Construction cost £200,000
Construction cost per m² £1,150
Architect Nicholas Kirk Architects
Client Bermondsey Community Nursery
Structural engineer Phi Design 
Landscape consultant Nicholas Kirk Architects
Project manager Nicholas Kirk Architects
CDM coordinator (principal designer) Nicholas Kirk Architects
Approved building inspector Clarke Banks
Main contractor SquareBaker Construction
CAD software used Vectorworks

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