South Norwood Hill Children's Centre

Cypress Infant School sits perched on a steep hillside and is surrounded by mature woodlands.
Our brief was to retain, extend and transform the existing unloved nursery building into a welcoming Children’s Centre that would allow the school to offer services to families with children from pregnancy to the age of twelve.
The new Children’s Centre function embraces the existing nursery building.
The typology of the existing pitched roof nursery inspired the extension, which was designed as a series of folded roof planes. The roof gives identity, a strong form and generous height to rooms of different sizes, ranging from smaller meeting and consultation rooms to the large multi-purpose space.
We opened up the ceiling of the existing nursery and inserted new skylights to let daylight into the deep plan. The existing timber trusses were exposed and create an animated play of light and shadow.
Covered external terraces located towards the woodlands provide space for fluid inside/ outside play. The play terraces open up an area of the school grounds that was previously inaccessible and unused for outdoor learning and play… not only for the children, but for the whole community.
The project won an RIBA Award and was nominated for Brick and 3R Awards. Our client, the headteacher of Cypress Schools, was nominated for the RIBA Client of the Year Award.
As an addition to the South Norwood Hill Children’s Centre, erect architecture designed playable ramps to connect the play terraces to the main access route and the glade. These ramps and steps include climbable surfaces, tunnels, toy chutes, dens and nets, creating multiple routes and instances for play. The feature turned a previously inaccessible terrain into an asset of the children's centre.
Location: Croydon, London
Client: The Cypress Schools
Cost: £840,000
Status: Completed 2011

RIBA Award, 2012, winner
Brick Award, 2011, finalist
3R Award, 2011, finalist
Architecture, play design: erect architecture
Project management, QS: Huntley Cartwright
Structural engineering: Built Engineers
Services engineering: Austen Associates
Play safety: The Playinspections Company
Contractor building:Hilife Construction
Contractor play: Grassroots Play
Photography: James Whitaker, erect architecture, Built Engineers