Marlborough Primary School, London

The Marlborough School redevelopment forms part of a wider regeneration masterplan for an area of Chelsea which also encompasses the adjacent Clearings warehouse site. Design proposals originally commissioned under John Lewis comprise three separate but interlinked schemes; The Marlborough Interim School, The New Marlborough School and the Clearings residential scheme. All three projects were awarded planning permission by the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea in December 2013.

The redevelopment of the Marlborough site had to address a challenging design brief. In addition to creating a primary school much larger than the original Victorian building, the brief also called for a separate commercial building – including office and retail accommodation – and a new pedestrian link to be provided on this dense urban site.

A key concept was developed around a series of cascading ‘garden terraces’ which step incrementally across the site from east to west. Teaching accommodation is arranged vertically across this tiered section to establish a strong sense of progression through the school. The younger nursery and reception classrooms are located at ground (3-5 years), the KS1 Infant classrooms are located on the first floor (5-7 years) and accommodation for the older KS2 Juniors is arranged across the upper floors (7-11 years).

Direct connections between internal and external learning areas are provided at each level supporting a diverse range of teaching, play and social areas. The general teaching and administration areas are arranged around the perimeter of the plan to exploit natural ventilation and daylighting. These cellular rooms wrap the generous communal hall and circulation spaces at the heart of the building which are illuminated by two central lightwells.

The school and commercial building are proposed in contrasting materials to present distinct identities to the street. The school takes on a more expressive civic role with a richer variety in materials and detailing which reference the elevations of the original Victorian School as well as the nearby Michelin Building. The landscaped terraces present an unexpected generosity to the surrounding streets which are typically characterised by tall and unrelenting mansion blocks.

The New Marlborough Primary School opened in September 2017.