Design for Hallfield Primary School, Paddington, London: ground floor plan (top) and explanatory site plan showing the school as natural plant forms (bottom), 1950s
Designer: Lindsay Drake and Denys Lasdun
© RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections
Drake and Lasdun generated the idea for the design of Hallfield School by looking abstractly at nature. In one drawing classrooms are represented as leaves branching off a corridor stem and linking to the flowering assembly hall and dining room. Their approach to school design maintained the 'finger plan', but balanced its inherent modernity with the poetics of nature. This biomorphic planning, placing classrooms imperfectly around a variety of corridor types, helped to humanise and bring the scale of the building down to that of a child.
The intermingling corridors and rooms create an intense spatial experience.
'The result is a coherent sculptural image, but one that is grasped piece by piece, incident by incident, as one moves from the public space of the estate to the increasingly closed world of the school. The scale has been cut down to that of a child's world: enclosed, dappled by light and shade, surrounded by plants, capable of receiving fantasy.'
William J R Curtis, Denys Lasdun: Architecture, City, Landscape, (London, 1994)
Unlike the Hertfordshire County Council's system of prefabrication and replication in school building, Drake and Lasdun gave Hallfield Primary School a distinctive building. Like the unique parts that make up a whole plant, the school aimed to foster a community of learning while celebrating the individual students within it.