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Vibrant new school for Southwark

Bellenden Primary, designed by Cottrell and Vermuelen Architecture, is a colourful oasis amid Victorian terraced streets

Posted by Julian Owen | March 13, 2019 | Bricks & mortar

Bellenden Primary School is a newly completed primary school and nursery in Peckham Rye, offering pupils a series of “exciting and stimulating spaces”.  The facility has met the requirements of rising numbers by expanding from one to two form entry. 

The school occupies an island site surrounded predominantly by Victorian terraced streets, forming a U-shape that follows the perimeter of the site to enclose a welcoming playground. The boundary is marked by a grey brick wall that both mirrors and contrasts the rear garden walls of neighbouring properties, opening up to signal the colourful entrance elevations. While the ground floor is also clad in grey brick, large colourful panels enliven the first floor elevations, lending a vibrant and friendly presence when viewed from surrounding streets or the playground. 

The inclusion of 23 new trees onsite, together with bird boxes and planted roofs, have increased the school’s visual appeal and enhanced the surrounding biodiversity

Brightly painted walls and murals add further colour alongside the external elevations, low level windows give small children their own views to the surrounding streets, and a series of circular windows of varying sizes lend a playful character to the perimeter wall. 

Classrooms are arranged in pairs by year group, each separated by a staircase giving pupils easy access to the courtyard and making circulation as simple as possible. External play space has been maximised by creating two large roof terraces, while an undercroft provides a sheltered area for outdoor play. The reception class and nursery on the ground floor can be combined to bring the youngest children together, and operate independently from the school. The main hall is a flexible space for dining, assemblies or indoor games, and opens onto an external dining area. A well-equipped music room completes the ground floor arrangement. 

Cottrell and Vermuelen Architecture say they have carefully considered the wider social, health and wellbeing factors that contribute to a successful primary school. As well as creating a welcoming, fun environment for the students, the development has been designed to integrate wider visual connections that enable it to sit comfortably within its surrounding streets. The inclusion of 23 new trees onsite, together with bird boxes and planted roofs, have increased the school’s visual appeal and enhanced the surrounding biodiversity

Bellenden Primary School looks to encourage inclusivity, as evidenced by the development of a community use strategy, where the school shares communal spaces such as the new main hall, music facilities and the outdoor multi-use play area. 

Pic credits: Anthony Coleman

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