The Reading Retreat at Stoneydown Primary School

The Reading Retreat has been designed to create a quiet area within the playground of Stoneydown Park Primary School for children to spend time away from the busyness of the external play area, to enjoy reading.

The project connects local skills and knowledge within the area of Walthamstow, London.

It is unusual in having been lead by an almost wholly female team with the client Kirsty O’Brien, structural engineer Fiona Cobb, carpenters Christina French and  Lua Garcia who delivered the project on site with maker Toby Poolman, and designed by architects Zoë Berman and Beni Rogers. The women-led team offers an important example to young people, in a school that is highly diverse and supports young people from a range of backgrounds.

The original brief for the scheme was to enclose an open sided lean-to and build a new deck beneath the existing canopy. The design pushes this original brief further to create a raked seating area on which pupils can sit with a book, to relax and read during playtime. The space is also used for one to one reading support for young pupils aged 5 – 11 years.

Working with a limited construction budget the architects and makers worked closely together to develop a proposal that was pre-fabricated in the Blackhorse Workshop yard and assembled on site. The raked seating area offers both steps on which to sit, as well as reads that are hinged to lift up and offer storage areas beneath the seats to keep books. The seated area is painted in soft shades of green to tie in with the tones of the existing school cladding.

Embracing low cost and readily available materials, the structure was formed with joinery grade pine and is clad with corrugated polycarbonate. The designers sought to maximise the fabricators skills in joinery. The timbers were pre-cut and pre-drilled off site. Rather than showing the screws exposed over 250 wooden plugs were pre-made, plugged on site and flush cut. Such a high level of care has been invested throughout this project.

Part of the funding for the structure came from the Jewson Building Better Communities award that gave the school £4,000 worth of materials. Accordingly, the design maximised the use of materials that could be readily used, without needing complex preparation. The National Lottery Awards scheme granted £9,000 to the projects and the parents and teachers association fund raised £7,000.

All photos by Jim Stephenson