Bemerton Children’s Centre, Islington, London N1


Part of the Sure Start Childrens centre for pre school children in Islington.

As the result of a competition in April 2002, we were asked to complete the refurbishment of this building, which occupies the ground floor of a 1960’s medium-rise social housing block on a rundown estate in Islington. The Sure Start philosophy is to integrate all the services for preschool children to achieve the most benefit while acting as a safety net for the vulnerable and this is achieved by providing new, flexible and exciting ways to create ‘joined-up’ ways of working at a community level. Within the building it is anticipated that health visitors, therapists, healthcare assistants, a clinical psychologist, and other family and early years support workers will be among the peripatetic team who are based here as well as community groups such as the Somali group. Advice on healthy eating, first aid and management board training will be provided and a crèche will ensure that all parents and parents-to-be can take part.

It was clear from the outset that the building needed to have a greater presence on the street to advertise itself better. We proposed down grading the existing entrances at either end of the building to fire exits and have formed a new canopied entrance with a decked area, housing a buggy park, straddling the existing ‘moat’. The visitor arrives at reception for both the Early years centre and the Sure start area.

As the existing building is concrete frame, the structural advice was to work with the openings that formed the original rather regimented rectilinear building. By removing all the non-structural partitions and considering the use requirements, we have achieved sensual curvy walls that sweep past the ends of the spine walls forming a seductive and interesting internal ‘street’ between the various activities.

Onto this we have created porched entrances and bay windows to allow glimpses through to the class rooms while providing little ‘window seat nooks’ for occasional quiet reading or small-scale activities. Reduced ceiling heights further modify the level of intimacy & colour encourages inquiry.

Part of the Sure Start Childrens centre for pre school children in Islington.

Project details


Cambridge Education at Islington

Construction cost


Project partners

Apollo London Ltd
Mendick Waring
Ellis and Moore
Daniel Connal Partnership