The Milkshake Tree
PH+ Architects has developed a pioneering new proposal for a school and community facility in Haringey for the London Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy (LCCCP), which encourages interaction, activity and education through sensory play.
However, while planning has been approved, the school is waiting for the final fundraising targets to be met for construction to begin, so the architects devised a temporary version of what the children might expect. They created a ‘Milkshake Tree’ on Peninsula Square, Greenwich – right next to the O2 – for the London Festival of Architecture in 2016. lnspired by one of the children’s requests during brainstorming workshops, the Milkshake Tree is a multisensory play and exploration space. It incorporates many elements that PH+ is planning on weaving into the finished school. In this way, it is something of a prototype, with reflective surfaces, changes of level, lighting, enclosure and even musical elements incorporated into the structure.
The exterior wall is formed of timber fins on to which copper pipes of differing sizes have been bound, which make musical tones as you hit them or run up and down the ramps. A small 12 sq m cubic den in the middle is lined with golden reflective panels perforated with leaf shapes, and features a glass prism that, when struck by sunshine, pours a kaleidoscope of colour and light around the space. An amelanchier tree (whose blossoms smell of strawberry milkshake) sits at the centre, while the scents of other plants around it evoke coffee and chocolate. Originally intended to be up for a week, the structure was in place for a month.
The project was successful beyond the dreams of PH+, says project architect Andy Puncher: ‘The feedback allowed people to relax about the level of proposed sensory stimulation. There were concerns around how any strobing effects (generated by the prism and reflective panels) would impact on some children. It was an even more positive experience for all the children than we had anticipated.’
It is hoped that construction can begin this summer, completing by next summer. In the meantime, The Milkshake Tree has become the symbol for fundraising (see milkshaketreeappeal.com for details).
Client: London Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy (LCCCP)
Size: 35 sq m
Duration: Summer 2016
Structure materials provided by Buildbase, Timberplay, Creative Aluminium Solutions
Studio Weave has been working closely with an ambitious charity, The Fifth Trust, whose aim is to help people with learning disabilities through care, recreation, education, training and employment.
The Trust already runs the Vineyard Garden Centre in Kent and a fully functioning cafe, Vineyard in the Valley, in which students play a key part in preparing, cooking and serving meals. It also offers learning activities for art and craft, media, music and dance. It has raised funds to develop new facilities on the site of its current home, Greenbanks, in Kent. With a limited budget, careful husbandry of resources was required. The existing institutional building is retained for accommodation, while Studio Weave has designed a series of four pavilions, set within the landscape, to replace four sheds currently being used as classrooms. A media pavilion, an art and a horticulture pavilion sit at angles to the larger teaching space, dubbed the ‘long barn’. Says practice director Je Ahn:
‘The key thing is that they would rather have smaller buildings that are more intimate than a bigger, institutional building with lots of functions. They want to encourage students to walk between the buildings, be outside, enjoy the domestic scale of it.’ Set within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty the small scale fits in nicely to the surrounding farmland; and wood will be one of the dominant materials deployed, with storage integrated into the structure wherever possible.
As for furnishings, the idea is to leave freedom for personalisation and individuality in each pavilion. ‘The design is a container for them to bring in what they need and inhabit the buildings, through use,’ says Ahn. ‘Our focus has been more on how they segment the space, where congregation happens, where there might be a quick get-out to quiet places, ensuring passive supervision and levels of connection, and also using the enchantments of nature and the setting.’
Client: The Fifth Trust
Architecture Studio: Weave
Area: 435 sq m (GIA)
Completion: Currently fundraising
Wright & Wright Newlands School
Newlands School in Peckham accommodates up to 70 boys from all over London, aged between 11 and 16, who have emotional and behavioural problems. After extensive engagement with the client and user groups, Wright & Wright came up with the idea of a seemingly simple cubic building with the ground floor organised around one long, central street, running from the front entrance to gardens at the rear. Designed as a double-height, top-lit hall, it provides access to all principal areas and circulation.
On the first floor, all teaching spaces are arranged around the central courtyard. in this way, legibility, clarity and passive supervision are built into the scheme – which features plenty of indoor windows and vision panels – as well as a constant engagement with the outdoors, via large picture windows and outdoor spaces integrated into facilities. A well-equipped design technology workshop on the first floor has its own outdoor terrace, and a performing arts studio features a courtyard auditorium. These disciplines are seen as crucial in encouraging the boys to develop positive skills through making, physical and verbal articulation and self-expression.
The school sits in the grounds of the building it replaced, which was an 1874 residential institution, near Nunhead Cemetery. Mature trees and brick walls line the site. The surrounding area is solidly residential and the scheme makes every effort to blend in to the post-war terraces, with its two-storey height. But it is lifted above the institutional or even residential norm, thanks to the unifying consistency of its yellow-brick elevations enhanced by generous windows and bronze elements, from door and window frames to handles.
Wright & Wright worked closely with the client to handle the complexities and sensitivities of its situation, including the siting of a separate outreach entrance, for use by police and social services, tucked out of sight so that the building doesn’t advertise its students’ vulnerabilities. Toilets are located next to first-floor classrooms, so that boys have little opportunity to wander off. Breakout spaces give corridors a generous, social aspect (rather than funnelling children along prescribed routes).
The entire first floor can be segmented and sealed off in sections, in case of disturbances.
After visiting the school, the then Architects Journal editor Rory Olcayto (now director of Open City) declared that the school had ‘restored [his] faith in British architecture’.
Client: Southwark Council (BSF)
Architect: Wright & Wright
Contractor: Balfour Beatty
Area: 3,175 sq m
Anna Freud School
In 2015 Penoyre & Prasad won a competition to provide the prestigious Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families in north London with state-of-the-art clinical, research and training facilities, integrated into one building, together with a new specialist school, The Family School, for children with mental health problems and their families. Part of UCL’s Centre for Child Learning, this ambitious school hopes to reverse the often negative impacts of traditional pupil referral units, instead bringing troubled children and their families together for immersive and therapeutic education for up to three months.
The therapy course and clinic, established by Sigmund Freud’s daughter Anna in 1952, was the first child psychoanalytic centre for observational research and has expanded over the years to occupy several sites around Hampstead.
This new building in King’s Cross brings it all together in a refurbished former chocolate factory with a new extension. The building varies between three and five storeys.
Some shared community space will be offered on the ground floor: a library, a cafe, a conference centre and workstations. The school will be located on the upper floors, with its own entrance. The school itself comprises seven intimate classrooms around a central ‘learning lounge’ space. The whole feel of the school – whose interiors are being designed by Ilse Crawford’s design consultancy StudioIlse – is intended to be non-institutional and quasi domestic.
Penoyre & Prasad partner Mark Rowe says: ‘We are trying to make the classrooms like little pods, where these temporary communities can make themselves at home; they can sit around a table drinking tea and eating toast. For every student there is a parent or carer, and the work is as much with the parent as with the student.’ There will be a maximum of six pupils per room, plus their individual carers or parents, and two teachers; they will be grouped according to age and educational stage. The design had to factor in the need for staff or parents to occasionally take a break, with or without a pupil, which is where the learning lounge comes into its own.
Having the school at the heart of the building ‘puts everyone closer to the coal face of what they do at the Centre,’ says Rowe.
A fully glazed western facade looks out on to an adjacent park, with the same glazed facades used on internal courtyards. North and south facades will be clad in precast concrete panels, whose cast-in geometric patterns add to the building’s civic presence.
One of the key features of this building will be ample provision of outdoor space, via terraces. The school will have its own learning terrace on the roof, overlooking the park to the west. The staff will have their own roof terrace at the back.
Client: Anna Freud Centre
Architecture: Penoyre & Prasad
Area: 3,300 sq m
Structural engineer: Webb Yates Engineers
Oastlers School, Bradford
When Building Design Partnership (BDP) was asked by Bradford Council to create a new school for pupils with emotional, social and behavioural difficulties, the client’s main objective was to make the building as damage-proof as possible. BDP, however, was keen to ensure that the design would work hard to support the pupils’ complex needs, by offsetting the atmosphere of security that a cheap but secure building might generate, with one of welcome and safety.
Early engagement with the school management identified a requirement for decompression zones – areas to where the children could remove themselves safely from classrooms while remaining visible. Consequently, different key stages are taught in distinctively coloured clusters of study spaces, for 20-30 students, grouped around a calming outdoor courtyard. The colour scheme for each cluster brightens the atmosphere, appearing in furniture and on coloured spandrels and louvre panels to the windows, which provide natural ventilation to the classrooms. Each cluster includes a kitchen area and soft seating for informal teaching and pastoral assistance. More traditional teaching occurs in classrooms sited on the perimeter of each cluster.
With limited space for play on the tight site, BDP’s solution was a large, covered courtyard set between the two wings of the school, one of which houses teaching accommodation and the other sports facilities and practical rooms. This courtyard was designed with harder external finishes, pavers and cast concrete steps, but BDP softened the effect by using larch cladding over the first-floor walkway; the larch posts are spaced so that they allow views into the courtyard but discourage climbing. With landscaping and acoustics also under BDP (Manchester) jurisdiction, it was possible to deploy budgets more creatively to meet the overall objectives. The project shows that even when money is tight, it is possible to ensure that a school offers refuge and respite, as well as robustness.
Client: Bradford Metropolitan District Council
Architect: Building Design Partnership (BDP), Sheffield
Area: 2076 sq m
Landscaping: BDP, Manchester
Acoustician: BDP, Manchester