Marks Barfield Architects has completed the innovative and flexible University of Cambridge Primary School, a BREEAM Excellent-rated campus powered by solar energy. Arranged around a unifying central green, the school has a circular plan with classrooms and spaces clustered together into three blocks. The school design was informed by the latest research from the University’s Faculty of Education with considerable input by leading educationalists and Head Teachers. The result is an educational environment where “learning can take place everywhere.”



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The University of Cambridge Primary School was completed in the first phase of the University’s 150-hectare North West Cambridge Development and is the first University Training School in the United Kingdom. The school’s three non-hierarchal clusters comprise six classes, plus an early years cluster, that open up to a shared “learning street” on one end and a covered outdoor learning space on the other. In addition to providing a learning environment for primary-aged children, the school will also facilitate teacher training and educational research for the University’s Faculty of Education. These diverse objectives were made possible by the collaborative nature of the design process.

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“University of Cambridge Primary School is the result of team effort,” said Julia Barfield, Director of Marks Barfield Architects. “Each decision was made incrementally, based on a process that assessed the site context and the educational needs of the school, while drawing on the guidance and research of leading academics from the UoC Faculty of Education. The result is a school where the education ethos and the architecture are totally aligned, such that learning can take place everywhere.”

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The primary school achieved BREEAM Excellence by minimizing energy use and maximizing access to natural light and natural ventilation. The glazed cloister canopy that runs around the internal perimeter of the central courtyard provides shade and is covered with artist Ruth Proctor’s digital screen print “We are under the same sky,” which features 67 unique images of the sky taken from around the world. One-quarter of the building footprint is topped with solar panels.

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Images (c) Morley von Sternberg