Montpelier Community Nursery
- Original design
- AY Architects, 2012
Tucked away within Montpelier Gardens in Kentish Town and surrounded by the rear of terrace houses, this building is planned around a central flexible playspace that generously opens out to a garden of mature trees. Indoor-outdoor play, children's learning through nature, the experience of a wonderful bright and airy space, and the architects' continual engagement with parents, staff, children and the local community are central to the success of this project.
The nursery is run by Camden Community Nurseries, a registered charity managed by volunteer parents, that provides affordable childcare for young children 2-5yrs old in the local area. It had been operating from a dilapidated and unsafe portakabin with a lifespan of only 15 years, originally built in 1983. AY Architects initiated a proposal for its demolition and replacement with a new building in an effort to secure affordable childcare and a sustainable building for the community for the long term. They worked closely with the neighbourhood in their multiple roles as local architects, former parents, trustees and voluntary members of the nursery's management team. In January 2009 they coordinated a successful application for a Capital Grant which would cover the project's costs and persuaded LB Camden to give full support to their initiative. The brief was for an environmentally friendly facility that could provide an increase from 18 to 24 nursery places.
The design takes its inspiration from its unique setting within the public gardens. It is planned around a large playspace that fully opens out to the exterior. Indoor-outdoor play is central to the design concept and the surrounding landscape is considered an essential part of the architecture and children's learning experience.
The superstructure of the building is made up of cross laminated timber panels with an exposed internal white wash finish. The roof canopy is supported by a series of glue laminated timber columns. Its form emerged from the architects’ direct response to the site conditions. The roof emulates the tree canopy within which the building sits. It is designed to maximise daylight and allow the building to be naturally ventilated. Three strip windows with north-south orientation span the plan diagonally. The orientation of the openings welcomes the sun to enter the building when it is low in colder months while large overhangs block it out to prevent overheating in the summer. The larger north facing roof window brings in an abundance of daylight, cross ventilation and views to the nearby terraced houses. A mixed sedum blanket forms the roof finish, contributing to local biodiversity and water retention.
The exterior is clad with ebony stained FSC Siberian larch decking. Its dark colour allows the building to sit contently amongst the dark tree trunks in the park and contrasts with the nursery’s brighter and calmer interior.
The new nursery building upkeeps and enhances the local park as a safe place for the community to enjoy. A land swap was negotiated with LB Camden that allowed the enlarged building to make use of a neglected land towards Montpelier House on the east. In exchange the nursery gave to the public a better quality space with a bench along its southern facade. After the new building was completed, Montpelier Gardens were significantly upgraded.
- Completed 2012
- Construction Cost: £429,000
- Area: 136m2 internal gross
- Architects: AY Architects
- Structural Engineer: Price & Myers
- Low Carbon Consultants: King Shaw Associates
- Winner Stephen Lawrence Prize 2013
- Winner RIBA National Award 2013
- Winner RIBA London Regional Award 2013
- Mid-listed RIBA Stirling Prize 2013
- Highly Commended Camden Design Award 2013