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Work starts on Surman Weston's contest-winning Hackney food school plans

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Construction has started on the new Surman Weston-designed Hackney School of Food, an ambitious charity-backed cookery school for children 

The emerging architecture studio won the project, which will overhaul an empty caretaker’s cottage in the grounds of Mandeville School, Clapton, east London, following an invited competition. 

The practice beat Gort Scott and Dallas-Pierce-Quintero to land the scheme for Chefs in Schools, an organisation which aims to improve the quality of school dinners in primary schools by employing professional chefs.

The Hackney School of Food will provide the facilities for professional chefs ’to teach children how to grow, cook and eat healthy and delicious food’. Part of a planned nationwide initiative, it will be the charity’s first teaching school.

As well as converting the former caretaker’s house into a professional kitchen, the scheme will transform the surrounding landscape into vegetable gardens, greenhouses, an orchard and kitchen garden.

According to the practice, the proposals have been designed ’to achieve maximum impact for the minimum budget’ and uses, using robust materials and simple details to make spaces that are both functional and beautiful’.

The firm also says that, as a prototype for a wider roll-out, the Hackney scheme is effectively a kit of parts, with easily replicable details.

A spokesperson said: ’Everything has to be suitable for both children and adults, so height-adjustable cooking units have been specially designed for the scheme. The aesthetic was also designed to be inviting and playful without becoming infantile, so as to appeal to all age groups.’

The interior of the house will be gutted to create a large double-height teaching kitchen space. However, the holes in the plaster, wood-chip, wallpaper, bathroom tiles, and ’anything else that crops up’,  will all be ’simply painted’.

A robust pigmented cement board will clad the floors and walls ’to form a practical surface finish for the cooking area’.

The scheme is due for completion in Spring 2020.

145 internal perspective

145 internal perspective


Project data

Project Hackney School of Food
Location Clapton, London
Type of project Education and community
Client Mandeville Primary School and Chefs in Schools
Architect Surman Weston
Photography and visuals Surman Weston
Landscape architect Surman Weston, Lidia D’Agostino and Miria Harris (Stage 1)
Structural engineer Structure Workshop
M&E consultant Peter Deer Associates
Main contractor Modern Arc
Start on site July 2019
Contract duration Six months
Gross internal floor area 56m²
Form of contract Traditional

145 site plan coloured

145 site plan coloured

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