Reading Retreat

Studio B, London, 2018


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Jim Stephenson     Download Original

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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 playground to enjoy reading.

This is a project that connects local skills and knowledge within the area of Walthamstow, London. The project was designed by architects Zoë Berman and Beni Rogers and constructed by Christina French, Lua Garcia and Toby Poolman – all of who work in the area and are members of the nearby Blackhorse Workshop makers space.

The original brief 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 prefabricated at Blackhorse Workshop and reassembled on site. The raked seating area offers both steps on which to sit, as well as the treads being hinged to create storage area beneath for 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. Part of the funding for the structure came from the Jewson Building Better Communities award, which 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. While this is a small and humble project, the architects 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 the project.

The project is rare in having been lead by an almost wholly female team with the client Kirsty O’Brien, fabricators Christina French, Lua Garcia and Toby Poolman and architects Zoë Berman and Beni Rogers. This has become an important aspect of celebrating this project. The women-led team offers an important example to young people, in a school that is highly diverse and supports children from a range of backgrounds.


  • Begun: Sep 2018
  • Completed: Oct 2018
  • Floor area: 45m2
  • Sector: Education
  • Total cost: £20,000
  • Funding: £9,000 Lottery grant, £4,000 Jewson Building Better Communities, £7,000 Parents & Teachers Association
  • Tender date: May 2018
  • Procurement: Traditional
  • Address: Stoneydown Park Primary School, Pretoria Ave, London, E17 6JY, United Kingdom

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