Proving that inspiring design can be achieved in small spaces and on a budget, British architecture firm Hayhurst & Co recently transformed an existing two-story “turret” on top of a Queen Anne-style primary school in London into an award-winning learning space for children. Awarded with a RIBA Regional Award, the new Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) Activity Lab is a welcome addition to the Torriano Primary School that provides flexible, hands-on learning opportunities for its 420 students. The new, dynamic lab emphasizes creativity and playfulness from its shiny, whimsical, shingled roof to its cathedral-like interior framed with curved laminated plywood portals.

brick school building with one metal roof

Created in collaboration with the teachers, students and Artist in Residence Jack Cornell, the Torriano Primary School STEAM Activity Lab was made possible thanks to Section 106 funding by Camden Council. To make the most of a limited budget, the architects turned their eyes to reuse and low-technology solutions, such as the stack effect to promote natural ventilation and a large skylight that also lets in plenty of natural light. A new thermal envelope was also created for the extension to meet Camden Council’s sustainability criteria.

Related: BIG’s LEED Gold-seeking school in Arlington features a cascade of green terraces

glass doors opening to a white and yellow school lab room
plants against a window and a glass door opening to a deck

The adaptable interior is designed for flexible use and carrying out practical experiments. The framework of laminated plywood portals doubles as a learning apparatus; students can drape over, attach to or project onto the portals using floor projection IT equipment. The space also includes fold-down demonstration desks, a black-out area for light-based experiments and a mezzanine level.

lab with yellow floors and curved plywood ceilings
students wearing lab coats inside lab with yellow floors and plywood arches

In the rear of the lab, a large, timber-framed, glazed door opens up to a small, south-facing roof terrace with an external living wall and cactus planter. There, students can also get a glimpse of the extension’s eye-catching roof dressed in mirror-polished, stainless steel shingle tiles that reference the clay tiles and lead-clad dormers of the existing building.

+ Hayhurst & Co

Photography by Kilian O’Sullivan via Hayhurst & Co