An inspired ‘tree house’ extension transformed Mellor Primary School into a stimulating and uplifting space for children, staff and the local community.
Located on the edge of the Peak District, Mellor Primary School extended its facilities to embrace its woodland setting. The north side of the school was transformed to create a covered timber deck looking out onto the surrounding woodland. The extension now forms a series of indoor and outdoor spaces; a library, an additional classroom, a special education needs (SEN) room, a larger hall, toilets and an outdoor equipment store.
The project has won a number of awards including the 2016 RIBA North West Awards and the Structural Timber Awards, Judge’s Choice and Best Education Project, as well as achieving highly commended in the 2016 Wood Awards.
Timber is the dominant material used for this project. Chosen for its sustainable, robust properties timber has been used for both the structure and the cladding. All timber used is either reclaimed or FSC / PEFC certified.
The external walls and roofs of the extension are lined with pre-fabricated timber cassettes, insulated with mineral wool insulation and clad with a combination of vertical cedar boards and British Columbian western red cedar shingles. The pitched roofs of the main buildings are also clad this way, with the architects choosing composite GRP (glass reinforced plastic) rooflight panels for the canopy roofs.
European larch glulam portal frames were used to support a lightweight canopy on the timber deck, creating productive, open spaces for students to learn about the environment with the local landscape providing the perfect backdrop. Internal joinery includes FSC certified birch faced plywood.
The building takes its inspiration from the Forest School ethos at Mellor. This philosophy states that pupils should have regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees.
The extension incorporates the landscape into the building by using timber as the dominant material. As the extension is situated on a slope, it is built on a timber deck which extends out into the woodland, so that the classroom appears to be a ‘tree house.’ In addition, the glulam portal frames are left exposed, further giving the impression of a tree.
The covered external deck areas can be used either for play or as outdoor classrooms.
A key feature of the project is the ‘habitat wall’, which was designed and constructed together with the children and the local community. One gable-end is covered with a series of timber-framed compartments which are infilled with locally salvaged timber offcuts, clay tiles and glass bottles to accommodate a variety of habitats for birds, bats, insects, small animals and plants.
Space was also left in the wall for additional planting and for the installation of bird and bat boxes. The boxes were designed based on recommendations by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Bat Conservation Trust.
Sarah Wigglesworth Architects - read our interview with Eleanor Brough on the future of classroom design.
Photography: Sarah Wigglesworth Architects
Wood Awards 2016 highy commended
Structural Timber Awards 2016, winner Judge's choice and Best Education project