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O’DonnellBrown designs community classroom prototype

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The £10,000 prototype project, initiated by the practice, is designed to be used as a demountable outdoor learning environment for schools and community groups

Glasgow-based emerging practice O’DonnellBrown has designed and built a prototype for an outdoor community classroom. The project was entirely self-initiated and has been developed in parallel with the architects’ ongoing community and educational projects as a resource to explore architecture as a positive vehicle for learning.

The simple timber structure provides an adaptable, demountable outdoor learning environment which employs a functional, rhythmic geometry in its design.

The classroom is intended to promote and support creative and independent learning in a healthy, versatile and fun environment. It has been designed in line with the Curriculum for Excellence and the National Improvement Framework to facilitate inclusive learning and mental wellbeing.

The demountable scheme has been constructed from a kit of parts using standard structural timber section sizes to create a skeletal frame. Plywood modules can be placed and reconfigured to suit a range of activities, providing seating, shelving, worktops or even presentation surfaces. Bolted connections allow for easy construction and deconstruction.

Colour testing diagram 01

A Monarflex roofing material provides waterproofing while a ‘dynamic façade’ is designed to roll down, allowing soft, diffused light to enter the space.

The architects worked with charity Barnardo’s Works Edinburgh to fabricate and construct the structure. Community engagement was key throughout the build process.

The space has hosted a variety of community-based workshops and events so far with the aim that it can be deconstructed and moved to other school and community sites. 

Odonnellbrown communityclassroom fullres 004

Architect’s view

Our design approach was driven by an aspiration to produce an accessible, simple and demountable kit of parts which, at its core, was architecturally engaging yet distilled to its purest functional form. Standard structural timber section sizes provide a skeletal frame, forming the basis for plywood modules to be placed and reconfigured to suit a variety of activities and inhabitants. Modules may provide seating, shelving, worktops or even presentation surfaces, all while engaging and empowering those learning in the creative process of constructing and defining their own learning environment.

Engaging with Barnardo’s Works to fabricate and erect the structure, the ethos of community engagement and learner-led activity remained central throughout the build process. It was indeed this continued thread of accessible, learner-centric design that provided the impetus towards a distinct, simple architectural language.

Sponsors and stakeholders, including the RIAS and Saint-Gobain, have been integral to the project, sharing our vision and aspiration. Support has been provided through donations of materials, such as the timber for the structural framework, and services, such as structural engineering input.

Since completion, the space has housed a number of community-based workshops and events, with further plans to expand upon this, building a continued dialogue and research-based approach. The aim is to provide an inspiring space for a wide range of occupants, with the ability to demount and move the structure, increasing its reach through schools and communities, improving provision for sectors integral to our collective societal well-being.

Sam Brown and Jennifer O’Donnell, directors, O’DonnellBrown

Elevationgraphicpdfexporttallerwithframenewest crop

Elevationgraphicpdfexporttallerwithframenewest crop


Project data

Start on site September 2019 (prototype)
Expected completion date Ongoing
Gross internal floor area 24m²
Construction cost £10,000
Construction cost per m² £416
Architect O’DonnellBrown
Client O’DonnellBrown
Structural engineer Design Engineering Workshop

Timber connection

Timber connection

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