Nightingale Primary School & The Otto

designed by /

Location: London / UK / Type: Playgrounds / School / Built: 2019 /
Show on Google Maps / Published on September 23, 2020

The project delivers a new primary school and nursery, providing much needed school spaces for the Borough of Hackney and is funded through the sale of 89 high quality private sale residential apartments co-located on the same site. The site, at 4900m², sits opposite the leafy green Hackney Downs Park bordered with mature London Plane trees.

The landscape challenge was to create excellent school grounds for learning outside the classroom on a constrained site – a total of six outdoor spaces spread across a series of ground level and raised terraces create an innovative and high quality learning environment. Care was taken to balance the needs of the different stakeholders, residents and pupils to produce two co-existing landscape proposals that did not detract from each other.

“BD Landscape excelled in the challenge we set them to create engaging and educational playgrounds on a tight site to cover the whole Primary curriculum at Nightingale Primary School. In response to the Headteacher’s demanding need for creative solutions, they produced beautiful fun spaces, full of nature and ecology, that provide teachers a wide range of learning opportunities strongly linked with their curriculum needs” Nicolas Laurent – Authority’s Client and Technical Adviser

The concept for the landscape design for the Key Stage 1, Nursery and Reception play spaces is based on the children’s story book ‘Where the Wild Things Are’. This is a magical place where imaginations can run wild and this is what has inspired the landscape design, feeding in to the play features, layouts and types of play.

The focus is on creating a landscape that encourages children to be imaginative, take part in role play and have a variety of different play experiences within the landscape. Play time is an opportunity for the pupil’s to ‘run wild’ before heading back into the classrooms for learning.

We encourage the use of water play within all play spaces, especially to tie into the concept of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and the journey across the water to travel there. The teachers have commented on the success of the water play and the part it plays in encouraging group interactions and teamwork, the pump can be used by multiple pupil’s and they can explore how changes further down the channels and input from others affects the water levels.

“We’ve noticed how our youngest children have gained great spatial awareness and climbing skills through their interactions with the environment in the EYFS playground. It’s great to see them clambering on the rocks and playing together in the stream.” Abigail Hopper, Nightingale Headteacher

Encouraging a mix of natural and more prescribed play through the use of equipment gives a variation and balance to the spaces in terms of developing key motor and physical skills as well as encouraging imaginative and role play within the different spaces.

For us, the success of a good school landscape can be measured in the enjoyment, engagement and interaction of the children who use it;

The children are engaged, enthusiastic and always excited in their playgrounds, they are absolutely loving them. We’re all very grateful for BD’s expertise and all proud of the outcome ” Nicolas Laurent – Authority’s Client and Technical Adviser

One of the challenging aspects of the project was to ensure the project as a whole felt coherent, rather than conflicting uses.

The material palette for the landscape as a whole and subsequently the residential terraces for the landscape ties into that of the architectural façade. A varied and textured approach aims to blend the building into the background surrounding the park to limit the impact on the park itself. By tying in to the architecture it creates a seamless transition between the vertical and horizontal elements to create a coherent scheme.

To the ground floor railings to the private terraces match the metalwork to the façade and harmonises with the textured London brick to the retaining elements. The feature paving creates a distinctive threshold to the dwellings whilst the wider material paving palette blends with the planters, wall and façade.

Setting back and raising up the terraces creates a sense of arrival and privacy for the residents. Over time the hedge planting will establish and provide enclosure but still allow views of Hackney Down Park.

“Duplex units at ground with raised front gardens take precedent from the existing terrace houses wrapping around the park. Details such a hexagon tiles compliment the façade palette, create an intimacy and playful character along the base of the building.” Rebecca Watts, Project Architect – Hawkins\Brown

We worked extensively with the architects to ensure a seamless design approach with careful detailing, material selection to create a residential landscape and entrance with a distinct sense of place.


Architects: Hawkins\Brown

Project location (Street, City, Country): Hackney Downs, London, UK

Design year: 2014-2019

Year Built:2019

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