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Olga

Status: Complete

Location: Mile End


Client: 

  • Tower Hamlets Schools

  • London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Number of school places: 700


Size (m2): 3,200


Contractor: Higgins Construction


Awards and shortlist:

  • BD Education Architect of the Year

Occupying a very tight east London site, Olga Primary School is a three-form entry school for 700 pupils. By stacking accommodation vertically over three storeys instead of sprawling outwards, the compact school design creates unconventional indoor and outdoor learning and play spaces. Centred around the concept of a ‘garden’ school; the youngest learners start on the ground floor before continuing to the higher levels as they grow.


The scheme is divided into two distinct elements, connected by a glazed full-height atrium: one houses the teaching block, while the other comprises administrative functions and two halls that are shared by the local community for a range of out-of-hours activities. The distinctive orange oxidized steel cladding of the community block contrasts against the contemporary London stock brickwork of the teaching volume and standalone Sure Start Children’s Centre pavilion, highlighting the different functions within. Arranging classrooms around the atrium maximise daylight for pupils, while a series of bridges within connect the teaching spaces,
encouraging interaction at different levels of the building.


Olga embodies a strong connection to nature. The youngest pupils have direct ground level access to specialist outdoor play areas to promote active learning. A series of roof terraces are positioned to maximise daylight penetration into the classrooms, giving pupils the feeling of being among the treetops. At the top of the building, the oldest pupils enjoy a generous outdoor play deck and look after mini-allotments.

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