AY Architects, led by Yeoryia Manolopoulou and Anthony Boulanger, have spent the last decade working directly with state schools in North London to successfully deliver six innovative, well-crafted and environment-minded building interventions, spanning from nursery to sixth form education. Through design practice, this research seeks mutually beneficial possibilities and connections that can be made between pedagogy and architecture. It asks how space learns and what it teaches; how we learn in space and what we learn from space. Of special importance are constructivist educational philosophies and a design-led approach to school architecture that values human experience, community and environment.
Individually and collectively, their projects critique standardised approaches to educational buildings and far exceed expectations of minimum requirements set by the government’s programme of ‘baseline designs and strategies for schools’ (Education Funding Agency 2011). Though modest in scale, they contribute to a new phase in the history of school building in the UK, contrasting restrictive sector-wide responses and typologies with specialised solutions that prioritise spatial quality and make sustainable design improvements; they use timber construction for stand-alone buildings, marking a shift in the educational construction sector in the UK; and offer new typologies of provision, such as the country’s first stand-alone science building for primary school children.