Hedge School

AP+E’s circular timber framework built for a primary school in Carlow, Ireland, accommodates vegetation to produce a stimulating learning environment.

AP+E, Hedge School, Carlow, Ireland
The Hedge School is a new outdoor educational pavilion for a primary school in Carlow, Ireland.
AP+E developed the concept and design after winning a competition in which the brief called for an interactive structure suitable for all different age groups in the school. The design consists of a timber framework that accommodates vegetation to produce a stimulating and adventurous learning environment.
AP+E, Hedge School, Carlow, Ireland
AP+E, Hedge School, Carlow, Ireland

A circle of timber columns defines the space of the pavilion within the school grounds. Inside a sequence of platforms references a classical amphitheatre that at the same time also promotes informal play. The integrated planting creates a unique classroom that combines nature and learning; it is a place where children are exposed to the elements and can begin to understand the principles of ecosystems, climate, seasons, flora and fauna. As part of the learning experience pupils are be able to grow their own food and follow the development of their plants as they progress in school.

Working with a tight budget the design utilities simple soft- and plywood with steel wires that create minimalist balustrades and an additional growing frame for the plants. Over time, as the plants and creepers grow, the Hedge School will change in appearance and become more feral and sheltered. In this way the evolution and maintenance of the pavilion also becomes part of the pupil’s education.

AP+E, Hedge School, Carlow, Ireland
AP+E, Hedge School, Carlow, Ireland

Key to the success of the project was to engage the pupils in the process and allow them to take ownership of the project.

For this reason the construction was carried out during school hours within view of the pupils and the different classes carried out the actual planting in the pavilion, in accordance with an outline planting strategy.

The open nature of the design has allowed the Hedge School to become an integral part of the daily life of the school community as the space can be used for a wide range of activities such as performances, outdoor lessons, play and gatherings. This is an architecture that is never complete, but is constantly changing with those that occupy it.

Hedge School, Carlow, Ireland
Program: educational pavilion
Architects: AP+E
Area: 65 sqm
Completion: 2015

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