B|D Landscape Architects: Ivydale Primary School is a 4FE primary school in Southwark, London. Prior to redevelopment the school was highly confined and did not have room to expand within its existing site. It was proposed that Ivydale Primary School should be enlarged to comprise a second site nearby, catering for Years 4-6. B|D in collaboration with Hawkins\Brown worked on delivering the new school site and in 2018 completed an award-winning proposal.
Ivydale prides itself as being an exciting, creative and dynamic school at the heart of the local community. Art, music, sport and community events are central to the school’s ethos and the school seeks to continue the tradition of family and neighbourhood participation. There was a strong desire to reflect these values in the expansion of the school campus and to create an outdoor space that enhanced the experience of staff, students and the local community.
The new site comprised mainly of low value hard-standing, scrub vegetation and chain link fences along boundaries. There was a significant level change across site and excess spoil needed to be retained. The site, including existing buildings, would be cleared to make way for a new school building and high quality landscape. Two mature trees were to be retained and incorporated into the design of the main playground.
In response to the education design brief, analysis of the existing site and discussions with the school steering group the following design objectives were identified for the school playground and landscape:
Key aims to be achieved through the landscape design
– Looking to the future – provide areas for staff and pupils to continue developing
– Encourage cooperation and working together
– A space that welcomes and supports the community
– Health & wellbeing
Key Landscape Elements
– External space should be an extension of the learning environment
– Space for performance
– Encourage imaginative play
– Multi-use spaces
– Fenced off MUGA for use by pupils and the wider community
– Growing Garden & Forest Garden
From the specific requirements of the school brief and the strategy devised with the school steering group the Landscape Masterplan was developed. The desired design was to provide space for students, staff and the wider community, whilst encouraging freedom of interpretation and elevating the school’s passion for performance.
A fenced of MUGA located within the upper terrace provides a dedicated sports pitch for play time and physical education. Growing Gardens and the Forest Garden provides educational green spaces where children can observe the temporal progression of nature and nurturing. The lower terrace offers a robust and flexible space; whilst the upper terrace is dedicated to structured play including play mounds, a climbing frame and a tree deck.
Following the theme of ‘the forest’ expressed through the building, these play elements are arranged below a canopy of existing mature trees and new tree planting and bordered by shady, woodland planting. All classrooms at ground level open up directly to outdoor teaching space and the wider landscape.
The amphitheatre provides the consolidating element, connecting the lower school playground with the upper terrace and sports pitch at a higher level. These multifaceted steps not only creatively deal with level change across the site, but stage a variety of functions including play, performance and gathering or event space. The lower and upper terraces are also connected via a ramp and steps to ensure all play spaces are accessible to all.
The school grounds created a complex landscape architectural challenge due to the level change across the site and the need to retain spoil; the amphitheatre and play mound arose as a creative solution to these constraints.
Terraces at different levels break the landscape up into habitable spaces, to which the amphitheatre steps act as a retaining wall. Excess spoil was used to create the play mound; the size and form of which is designed to accommodate play features and tree planting within and ensure the exact amount of surplus spoil was used.
Detailed construction drawings were produced for each element of the design and considered in relation to each other, as shown below. Incorporating the spoil into the design not only lead to a more dynamic and unique landscape, but also meant significant cost savings were made.
School grounds are important places where children can experience nature first-hand and enjoy the natural world. The outdoors is a dynamic resource, as it is constantly changing throughout the seasons and days. As well as offering exciting and engaging educational opportunities, simply being in nature has a positive impact on children’s education, physical health, emotional wellbeing, and personal and social skills.
The landscape proposals at Ivydale looked to maximise on greenspace where possible to ensure opportunities for pupils to connect with nature. Whilst the main playground had to be predominantly hard surfaces, the inclusion of The Growing Gardens and the Forest Garden created valuable green areas with rich and diverse planting. Raised planters, communal benches and storage areas comprise the Growing Gardens.
The garden gives pupils their own space to tend to a productive landscape. As well as teaching pupils practical skills for growing their own food, the process encourages them to become more independent, responsible and confident, as well as teaching them about leading a healthy lifestyle.
The Forest Garden is a quiet and secluded space where pupils can observe wildlife and flora. The soft landscape proposal for this area included new tree planting such as Betula pubescens, Prunus avium plena and Malus sylvestris. These tactile and seasonally dynamic trees were selected to engage children whilst also providing habitat and foraging opportunities for wildlife.
The new MUGA provided a dedicated space for sport where pupils can develop physical skills, exercise, have fun and learn to be a team member.
‘Outside is phenomenal, it’s amazing! The grass, the slide, we pick up sticks, the massive football cage. It’s just an all-round amazing school’
– Finn, Student
‘We are really happy, we’ve seen an immediate improvement in behaviour around school – it’s absolutely proved to us that, actually, the school environment makes a huge difference to how children learn…’
– Helen Ingham, Headteacher
Landscape Architects: B|D Landscape Architects
Other designers involved in the design of landscape: Hawkins\Brown (Architects)
Client: London Borough of Southwark
Landscape Budget: circa £0.9 million
Project location: Southwark, London
Design year: 2014-2017
Year Built: 2018