Ivydale Primary School\

Creating a new identity

The new Inverton building for Ivydale School doubles the school’s existing capacity to accommodate KS2 children in a 4FE primary school. It is one of four schools we are delivering for London Borough of Southwark’s Primary School expansion programme.

The Challenge

The new building is located on a site nearby the existing Victorian school building. Our biggest challenge was to ensure both buildings felt part of one school.

In addition to extensive consultations, our engagement focused on the children, offering a valuable learning opportunity. This ranged from design consultations, construction site visits, model making and poster competitions.

The project has been delivered on a modest budget, with the focus on creating inspiring, flexible spaces which perform well. Internally, the layout is a simple square arrangement, fully accessible throughout. Staff and administrative spaces are located to the front of the building, offering a view to the street that connects the two schools. Classrooms are located on opposite sides with a central double height atrium and hall, providing the school with flexible performance spaces in line with their arts specialism. These spaces feature exposed Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and glulam structure, providing children with a visible understanding of the building structure, as well as adding to the calming atmosphere. The School’s passion for the arts is also reflected in the tiered seating in the landscape amongst other external spaces such as the Forest Garden and Kitchen Garden.

“Really happy, we’ve seen an immediate improvement in behaviour generally around school. It’s absolutely proved to us that actually the school environment makes a huge difference to how children learn.”

Helen Ingham Headteacher

The Fox in the Forest

We found inspiration from a children’s illustration called ‘The Fox in the Forest’ by Julia Woolf. This informed both the design of the bold triangular brick pattern and the interior design strategy. We felt that the image was evocative of the school’s nature-based name and reflected their values and ethos. The green triangles are abstract, yet the children recognise that there is a forest theme, specifically designed for their school.

Four different green bricks were selected for the cladding. We developed a script to help us test the percentages of each green to be used to give us the overall effect we were looking for. The brick is laid in a English Cross Bond which gives us the sharp diagonal of the triangles. The glazed bricks reflect light as well as shadows which are cast on it, creating a shimmering effect in the light.

The use of timber in the exposed cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glu-laminated beams as well as the internal plywood detailing all add to the forest narrative. The areas of exposed CLT and glu-lam is reserved for special areas of the building; to the soffits of classrooms, bay window seats of first floor classrooms, high level beams in the Atrium and Hall, the double height Hall walls and the ‘elephant steps’ in Atrium stair.

Internally, the image guided the playful use of colour on surface finishes and loose furniture. The children may not know this, but the teachers and teaching assistants’ chairs are orange, as a nod to the cunning fox! The resulting environment in the building is suitable for KS2 learning as a stepping stone to secondary school.

“The design is based on nature and is really calming. My new
school building makes me so happy”


Fox in the Forest © Julia Woolf

  • Project Details
  • Sustainability

Project Summary

Project Team

Structural Engineer: Elliott Wood Partnership
M&E Engineer: Max Fordham LLP
Landscape Architect: BD Landscape Architects
Cost Consultant: The Keegans Group
Project Management: Mace Group Ltd
Acoustic Engineer: Bureau Veritas UK Ltd
Contractor: Galliford Try (Southern) Ltd


  • RIBA Awards 2018 - London Regional Award - Winner


The project optimises views to the outdoors and natural light, which in combination with the use of CLT and a natural interior palette, has created a strong connection to nature and a calming environment which aids learning.

The design of the building and services applies the London Plan‘s energy hierarchy: ‘Be Lean, Be Clean, Be Green’. The orientation, form and layout of the building are integral to the sustainability strategy and vice versa. The passive design includes double height spaces (atrium, hall, lightwells to corridors) with a stack effect to allow the assisted natural ventilation strategy to work, and also providing enjoyable spaces.

The building fabric has a high performance, with high levels of insulation and low air permeability. The CLT structure enables high levels of airtightness and lower likelihood of thermal bridging, localised areas of steel frame are fully insulated.

Extensive daylight modelling was used to inform the façade design. All classroom lighting is zoned to automatically reduce artificial lighting demands using occupancy and light level sensors. PV’s on the roof provide on-site renewable generation.

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