Email Us

Architecture Initiative

4 John Prince’s Street
+44(0) 20 3657 7800

Mailing List:

Please enter your details below to receive Architecture Initiative’s quarterly newsletter and other associated studio happenings and events.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

    Olga Primary school: Complete

    Olga Primary School unlocks constrained site to provide over 700 inner London children with indoor and outdoor learning and play space designed to inspire

    We have designed a ‘garden school’ in Tower Hamlets in East London. The new scheme for Olga Primary School provides a three form entry school delivering much-needed places for inner London children aged 3-11. Featuring terraced gardens, trees and landscape as well as distinctive oxidised cladding, the school has been designed to inspire children with an exciting and unconventional environment.

    The design makes the most of a very tight East London site to provide places for over 700 pupils and create more than 60 new jobs in the area. Architecture Initiative designed a compact school built upwards rather than sprawling to occupy the minimum area and maximise the space for a landscaped play area while improving the view for surrounding residents.

    Olga Primary School comprises three storeys and a series of upper-level terraces to add further outdoor space and it is positioned to maximise daylight penetration throughout. The building replaces a single-storey structure built in 1982 which was no longer serving the needs of the community, being only a one-form entry school serving 240 pupils.

    The scheme is divided into two distinct elements separated by a glazed atrium: one houses the teaching block, including classrooms, while the other mixes administrative and community activities. In this way the regeneration project has opened up the school to the wider community which is able to use spaces within the school outside school hours.

    The community and administration block is cantilevered over the entrance podium and is clad in orange oxidized steel while the brick of the teaching block responds to the local vernacular. The school also has a Sure Start Children’s Centre providing training for new parents, which is built as a free-standing pavilion, clad in London Stock buff brick. This gives the school a striking identity and highlights the different functions within.

    The classrooms are set around the naturally-lit, full-height atrium. A series of bridges within the atrium connect the teaching space, encouraging interaction between the different levels of the building.

    The building is highly energy efficient, with natural ventilation, heat recovery systems and a highly insulated building fabric to help achieve its BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.

    The overall effect created is that of a school sitting within a rare green oasis. A series of roof terraces give children the feeling of walking through treetops, creating an environment designed to encourage children to enjoy being at school and be closer to nature. The extra school places are sorely needed in Tower Hamlets, where demand for places is expected to rise by as much as 38% by 2022.

    Ducan Cameron, Building development at London Borough of Tower Hamlets said ‘The project to expand Olga Primary School from one form of entry to three, contributes to the council’s overall programme to meet the need for additional school places for the rising school population. The council’s partnership with Architecture Initiative has resulted in a learning environment that is stimulating, invigorating, and engaging.

    The design of Olga School offers fantastic teaching space and teaching terraces. Olga School and the community are proud of the amount of green spaces and mature trees which create a refreshing alternative in a highly developed residential area.

    Lee Mainwaring, Design Director at Architecture Initiative said ‘Our aim is to ensure that new generation of schools inspire and nurture learning. Olga Primary School has been designed to interact with nature in different ways at each level creating a variety of experiences and teaching environments beyond the standard classroom. This vertical approach allows the school itself to encourage awareness of biodiversity, ecology and nature, which is often rare in an inner city school.”

    Text by ING Media

    Images by Andy Stagg