client Genesis (J&T) Ltd (Trading as Happy Days Nurseries)
This is the design for a new nursery school for 120 children on a greenfield site on the outskirts of Haddington, East Lothian. The client, owners of Happy Days nurseries, wanted a design that could be built as soon as possible after acquiring the site, and asked Halvorsen Architects to look at the creative use of Portakabins.
Halvorsen Architects embraced the challenge and decided to use recycled Portakabins to satisfy their sustainable ethos. By positioning three sizes of Portakabins in different arrangements, a surprising variety of spaces and buildings could be formed. We were inspired by both Cuckoo Hall Primary School by Foremans Refurbished Portakabins and the multi-award winning 1990s Woodley Primary School by Hampshire County Architects. We decided to cluster the classrooms and ancillary buildings around a curved linear external but covered corridor with breakout areas and frequent steps down to the garden along the way. The resulting organic design breaks down the nursery into small, intimate and child-friendly sized units.
The site slopes down to the south with views of the Lammermuir Hills. The buildings are positioned around a large protected “courtyard” garden that faces South, giving all classrooms unimpeded views of hills. The classrooms and linking walkway are raised above the ground to limit the impact on the greenfield site.
The external walkway provides the children with a very strong link with nature. Although the platform is protected from the harshest weather, it leaves the children exposed to the changing seasons and daily weather conditions as they move between the classrooms and dining room. The walkway extends to become outdoor classrooms overlooking the “courtyard”. It provides many interesting places for the children to play in and ways to access the surrounding wilder garden including down slides.
The raised walkway extends to the entrance to give a playful drawbridge-like approach to the nursery, including a lookout tower for the children overlooking the security gate.
The garden is left fairly wild, and includes a Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) pond that is turned into a feature in which the children can do pond-dipping.