Type: Primary School Science and Technology Lab
Location: Camden, London
Project cost: 330K
Status: Completed May 2018
Our design for this new Science and Technology Lab building responded to Eleanor Palmer Primary School’s ethos aiming ‘to foster enquiring minds, curiosity and wonder in the world’. The new building is a shared learning resource primarily for the school and for the neighbouring community and other primary schools in North London.
We worked closely with the school’s advisory group, comprising staff, parents, governors and pupils, who met us regularly and provided important input in developing the design. The brief was to create a flexible and inspiring classroom space for 31 children, aged 3-11 years, to support teaching science and technology. In addition, the Lab is to be used for after school clubs and cooking groups.
The new building replaces an underused Victorian canopy in the school’s playground.
In the process of design, we considered how architecture could potentially address through its own means three key subjects of the primary school curriculum: ‘processes and forces’, ‘materials’, and living things’.
The building is made of a fully exposed timber frame construction that hopes to engage children with technology directly through experiencing architecture: children should be able to unpack and analyse the parts of the building logically.
A number of design options were explored through different physical models.
The preferred design integrates within the space of the roof two triangular volumes that extend 1.5m higher than the main roof level. These distinct volumes create ideal natural daylight conditions, generously tall spaces for hanging devices for science experiments, and a high level air extraction zone as part of our strategy for heating and ventilation.
The main room is conceived as a place for discovery: an adaptable apothecary that incorporates a range of display areas, cupboards and curiosity cabinets along its perimeter. Gradually the space is likely to acquire an expressive identity formed by the accumulation of objects, tools, plants and constructions produced in the classroom’s daily life. A series of sinks and worktops, a fitted area for cooking, and a small dark/sound room are also included.
Carefully positioned openings frame the street, the sky, curated displays, and views towards the playground and the main school building.
The east elevation, facing the main playground, integrates a row of vitrines and a versatile long outdoor bench.
The building is set back from a Victorian boundary brick wall along Fortess Road in Kentish Town. The geometry of the two tapering flat roof volumes breaks up the upper roof line, reducing the massing and visible impact of the building on the street while adding to its character.
A display window penetrates the wall between two piers to provide a ‘sign’ for the Lab and a much needed visual connection between the school and the street.
The north elevation extends to a specially designed Science Garden that incorporates planting, anamorphic play equipment, designed by studio Unit Lab, and a pedal powered outdoor disco, produced by Electric Pedals.