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      The Architect’s Journal portrays Olga Primary School

      The school provides space for over 700 pupils on a tight site in Bow

      Replacing a single-storey structure built in 1982, the new scheme for Olga Primary School brings greater density with two distinct, three-storey elements separated by a glazed atrium: a teaching block and an administrative and community block, along with a standalone brick pavilion housing a Sure Start Children’s Centre.

      The teaching block is built from brick to reference its neighbours, while the community block is clad in Cor-ten steel, cantilevering over an entrance podium. Classrooms are arranged around the full-height atrium, across which bridges provide connections between the blocks.

      A series of roof terraces has been designed to give the feeling of ’walking through treetops’, giving back some of the outdoor space occupied by the new buildings.

      Architect’s view

      Our aim is to ensure that a new generation of schools inspires and nurtures 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. 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.

      Lee Mainwaring, design director, Architecture Initiative

      Client’s view

      The project to expand Olga Primary School from one-form 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.

      Duncan Cameron, building development, London Borough of Tower Hamlets

      Text by The Architects’ Journal

      Images by Andy Stagg