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Rotherhithe Primary School, Southwark

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

Education space in a garden by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios is reminder of school architecture’s responsibility to care for and improve children’s wellbeing

Rotherhithe Primary School.
Rotherhithe Primary School. Credit: Hufton + Crow

2024 RIBA London Award

Rotherhithe Primary School, Southwark
Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios for London Borough of Southwark Environment, Neighbourhoods and Growth
Contract value: £15,464,816
GIA: 3520m2
Cost per m2: £4,393.43

The new Rotherhithe Primary School replaces a 1971 box-like building that was only ever intended as a temporary solution. The school motto of ‘hope and courage’ guided the head teacher Galiema Amien-Cloete and her design team to approach the brief creatively and they did so to impressive effect. This project is a reminder of the responsibility and capacity for school architecture to care for and improve children’s health and wellbeing. The architects have created a school in a garden, with greenery on all sides where there are classrooms, creating a nurturing environment for children in Key Stages 1 and 2. From window heights to material choices to strategies that enable attentive but unintrusive supervision, the approach throughout is thoughtful and inclusive.

  • Rotherhithe Primary School.
    Rotherhithe Primary School. Credit: Hufton + Crow
  • Rotherhithe Primary School.
    Rotherhithe Primary School. Credit: Hufton + Crow
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Funding came from several sources, including the Mayor’s Fund for London, the Department for Education and the local authority. So, with an exceptional budget, the designers of the school had the opportunity to think outside of the box. The architects were selected from a framework shortlist of five practices for their ability to listen to and interpret the client’s needs and wishes.

Many of the children who attend the school come from disadvantaged backgrounds or live in high-rise blocks with little or no amenity space. The school addresses this by making play a key aspect of the curriculum. It is also an international school body, with some 42 languages spoken. The spaces that bring together this diverse community particularly stand out. Mealtimes are an important aspect of children’s social lives and take place in the double-height main hall, which is brightly lit by three tall windows overlooking the main road. It is light, enjoyable, and flexible for a variety of uses. 

The architecture uses a simple palette of materials: exposed brick and maroon glazing bars externally, and timber employed generously within. This combination is successful in maximising transparency while ensuring the school is an intimate, friendly setting. The acoustic design and circulation are commendable, with views often in two directions and an open-sided corridor lines the central courtyard playground. Windows in the corridors are set at various levels to cater for children of all heights, giving everyone a view, whether standing or sitting. The toilet provision is also noteworthy, supporting natural supervision with sinks in the open circulation areas and only the toilets in cubicles.

  • Rotherhithe Primary School.
    Rotherhithe Primary School. Credit: Hufton + Crow
  • Rotherhithe Primary School.
    Rotherhithe Primary School. Credit: Hufton + Crow
  • Rotherhithe Primary School.
    Rotherhithe Primary School. Credit: Hufton + Crow
  • Rotherhithe Primary School.
    Rotherhithe Primary School. Credit: Hufton + Crow
  • Rotherhithe Primary School.
    Rotherhithe Primary School. Credit: Hufton + Crow
12345

The gardens and trees that previously existed on the site have been incorporated into the design, which cleverly uses the centre of the site to its advantage. The adjacent housing does not impinge on the layout, yet helps to connect the school with its surroundings. Since Covid-19, there have been severe challenges of adjustment for a number of the school’s pupils, which have been recognised in the provision for funding and extra teaching care by the ‘investors’ in the project.

The school motto, ‘hope and courage’, has inspired the creation of a very special place of learning, with even its construction seen as an educational opportunity. The head teacher highlighted the civic presence of the new school, which had been missing in its previous design. Today, it is a building of which the local community is rightly proud.

See the rest of the RIBA London winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here.

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com.

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credits

Contractor Farrans Construction

Structural engineer Waterman Structures

Environmental/M&E engineer Waterman Building Services

Landscape architect Fabrik

Principal designer Faithful & Gould

Acoustic engineer Ramboll Acoustics

Project management Faithful & Gould

BREEAM advisor Faithful & Gould

Fire engineer The Fire Surgery

Building control London Borough of Southwark

Civil engineer Waterman Structures Ltd

Transport consultant MLM

 

Credit: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Credit: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Credit: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Credit: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Credit: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

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