design solutions

Primary conjures up new space for STEM lab

natural habitats, while internal planters teach about differing climatic habitats, aid in reducing air polluting gasses and increase biophilic well-being.


ORRIANO Primary School in Camden, North London has found an ingenious way to create a new hands-on learning space for its 448 pupils. An existing two-storey ‘turret’in the south-east corner of the building has been remodeled to house an inventive new science lab.

Opening up the existing second and third floor rooms to form one tall space, naturally lit by a large skylight above, has transformed the space.

The interior takes the form of a series of laminated plywood portals that act as learning apparatus: a framework that allows items to be dropped from, draped over, threaded through, clamped to or projected onto it.

Constellations are etched into the faces of the timber and the form of the portals helps re-define the double-height teaching space and provide a cathedral- like scale to a small, rediscovered part of the school.

The adaptable space has been carefully designed to allow for flexible use, with an emphasis on allowing a variety of spaces to carry out practical experiments. Fold-down demonstration desks can be used for small groups or lifted-up to form a large clear space for experiments. Floor projection IT equipment allows for pupils to feature inside their presentation: a form of interactive and inclusive learning. The space also features a black-out area for light-based experiments and a mezzanine to enable students to gain additional height to undertake practical experiments. To the rear of the room, a super-sized timber-framed, glazed door provides access to a small, south-facing roof terrace allowing learning experiences to be taken outside. Here, an external living wall and cactus planter enables pupils to become involved in the care of plants, teaching them about biodiversity and


Outside, mirror-polished stainless steel shingle tiles extension give the façade of the small roof-top extension a fairy tale like appearance–a shining beacon sitting a top the school. The mirror tiles reference the clay tiles and lead-clad dormers of the existing building, while ‘playfully’ reflecting the greenery and the environment around the school. The project is the result of collaboration between the architects Hayhurst & Co, teachers and pupils. Artist in Residence, Jack Cornell, worked with Hayhurst & Co to help them test, draw and model activities that the pupils might want to undertake in the space, which originally inspired the idea of the plywood superstructure. The STEM lab was partly inspired by Leonardo’s da Vinci’s flying machine.

This small but incredibly high-impact space was completed in August 2018 on a very tight budget, and was made possible thanks to an enlighted use of Section 106 funding by Camden Council. What could easily have been spent on paving and potholes has instead been invested in an outstanding piece of education infrastructure.

With over 400 pupils located on a tight school site and a limited budget, re-using an existing space –previously a series of small rooms used for storage accessed via a steep, rickety staircase - was paramount.

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