Photographs by Jim Stephenson

The Reading Retreat has been designed to create a quiet area within the playground of Stoneydown Park Primary School for children to spend time away from the busyness of the playground to enjoy reading.

This is a project that connects local skills and knowledge within the area of Walthamstow, London. The project was designed by architects Zoë Berman with Bennedetta Rogers, and constructed by Christina French, Lua Garcia and Toby Poolman - all of who work in the area and are members of the nearby Blackhorse Workshop maker space. 

The original brief was to enclose an open sided lean-to and build a new deck beneath the existing canopy. The design pushes this original brief further to create a raked seating area on which pupils can sit with a book, to relax and read during playtime. The space is also used for one to one reading support for young pupils aged 5 – 11 years.

Working with a limited construction budget the architects and makers worked closely together to develop a proposal that was pre-fabricated at Blackhorse Workshop and reassembled on site. The raked seating area offers both steps on which to sit, as well as the treads being hinged to create storage area beneath for books. The seated area is painted in soft shades of green to tie in with the tones of the existing school cladding. Embracing low cost and readily available materials, the structure was formed with joinery grade pine and is clad with corrugated polycarbonate.

The project is rare in having been lead by an almost wholly female team. This has become an important aspect of celebrating this project. The women-lead team offers an important example to young people, in a school that is highly diverse and supports children from a range of backgrounds

The Reading Retreat - a short film, by Jim Stephenson