New primary school and affordable housing by Henley Halebrown in London borough

This summer, London’s Hackney borough welcomed a new hybrid primary school and affordable housing project in the Kingsland Road Conservation Area. Designed by award-winning London-based architecture studio Henley Halebrown, the Hackney New Primary School is a mixed-use project with affordable housing and retail spaces that was the result of an innovative partnership between the Benyon Estate, the Education Funding Agency (EFA) and the Hackney New Primary School Trust.

Located opposite the old secondary school building of Hackney New School, also designed by Henley Halebrown in 2013, the new premises are conceptualised to accommodate 350 pupils between the ages of four and 11. Adjacent to it, a new 11-storey high building at 333 Kingsland Road features 68 apartments along with retail spaces on the ground floor. The school thus shares its compact 8,180 sq m site with the new mixed-used point block that houses all the residential units.

This tight-knit combination of functions promotes an element of communality by creating opportunities for people to come together in the shared spaces—a recurring principle in Henley Halebrown’s design language since its inception in Shoreditch 25 years ago, as well as a prerequisite for the client, The Benyon Estate. Constructed in collaboration with Thornsett, specialists in residential-led developments, the design scheme fuses two building typologies—a courtyard or ‘cloistered’ school and a residential point block. The apartment building’s compact plan means that maximum footprint is available for the school block, thus allowing good daylight penetration to its courtyard as well as enabling a substantial acoustic and atmospheric buffer from the traffic on the main road.

Inside the school, the large courtyard is complemented by covered galleries and a rooftop play space. The classrooms are paired so that each year group can be taught concurrently within two overlapping spaces. Classrooms, music rooms, the main hall and administrative spaces all focus inward towards the courtyard and overlook one another. “The inner courtyard defines a safe, enclosed world for smaller people, a reduced scale within the city, a place to learn and wonder,” says Noel Cash, Project Lead and Associate Director at Henley Halebrown. A concrete bench along the length of the school’s south-facing facade allows parents to sit and chat on fine days, while the same function on a rainy day is achieved by the covered arcade connecting the school with the residential block.

The narrow masonry structure of the residential tower contains paired floors, with loggias carved out of the mass of brickwork. A two-storey order extends around the perimeter with an open colonnade at the top through which the sky and penthouse terraces are visible. The building material for both the school and residential block is predominantly red brick, whose distinct colour plays an important role in making it a cohesive project. “This project is inherently urban as it brings different, unrelated uses together to make a new part of the city,” Simon Henley, founding partner of Henley Halebrown, reiterates about the role of the building typology.