National Neighbourhood Nurseries Competition

Client: DFES / CABE
Commended finalists 2001

In 2001, we were one of the commended finalists in a DfES / CABE sponsored national competition to develop new standards of excellence and best value for nurseries in deprived areas. This was part of the Neighbourhood Nurseries Initiative focusing on the most socially disadvantaged areas of the country. The scheme was seen to have created a model to provide new, imaginative thinking about affordable places and spaces for children to learn and play. Play is the most serious form of activity for a young child - a way of discovering self and building relationships with the world. Spaces that encourage unfettered play in all its complicated manifestations are of primary importance. These spaces should be inviting, sunny, flexible and offer a range of scales to suit the range of possible uses: from quiet concentration to active movements, light and sound to messy materials.

Play with matter, movement, stillness and dreaming are fundamental to a young child's discovery of their actual and imaginary world. Through careful study and dialogue we understood the limitations of the existing buildings of Hoyle Nursery.

Our proposal wrapped new structures around the existing fabric to facilitate dynamic interfaces between the nursery and the community, between dynamic play space and places for quiet withdrawal, between buildings and landscape.

An open courtyard has been cov­ered to provide a central space as the focus for the nursery and the local community. It can accommodate a range of activities -free play, group activities, community meetings and events and provides a degree of flexibility which allows the nursery to adapt to changing needs over time.

The central interior is designed as a 'garden' room with elements of nature introduced as a reflection of outdoor spaces - light, textured surfaces and natural materials. Wall surfaces transform over time through artworks created by children who occupy the space - castings, paintings, sculptures as permanent features.