Architecture in Schools Programme Information

This year classes have visited the following buildings;

1 Finsbury Circus, Sir John Soane's Museum, The Conservatoire , the Angel Building, The Barbican, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, the Southbank Centre, the National Gallery, Salters’ Hall, Emirates Stadium, The Crystal, William Booth College, Guild Hall Art Gallery, Unicorn Theatre, Bevis Marks Synagogue and many more venues across London.


Design professionals have come from the following practices;

Allies and Morrison, LOM Architecture & Design, Burwell Deakins Architects, Cottrell & Vermeulen, Pollard Thomas Edwards, Elliott Wood Partnership, Granit Chartered Architects, Haverstock, Studio Cherry, Sheppard Robson, Jestico + Whiles, Weston Williamson + Partners, Laurent Mot Ltd, Wilkinson Eyre and Lipton Plant Architects and Foster + Partners.


2018 Design brief and in-class workshops

The design brief for 2018’s Architecture in Schools project is a ‘Shared City’.

Open City selected this brief in partnership with the Canary Wharf Group because we believe that incorporating shared places into the design of a city that is constantly evolving is vital to the health and wellbeing of London’s growing populations.

In creating a successful ‘Shared City’ we believe participation is key to sustainability,
if people are involved in designing a space they’ll take care of it. This is a key idea that your pupils could investigate in designing their cities. Encouraging young people to play an active role in shaping their city is a top ambition of the Architecture in Schools: Primary programme.



Responding to the Design Brief

Throughout the project classes work independently with their partner mentor architects to respond to their design brief and to design their own ‘imagined’ area or neighbourhood. 

In working on their designs 
pupils are asked to consider the following: 

The function of their chosen place, who will use their place, the location of their place, how their place can be accessed, how their place can look appealing to users and how their place can be sustainable and well 
looked after.

Presenting Ideas

Every year children present their ideas by creating a project portfolio complete with photographs, sketches and notes documenting their design process and final designs and creating a three-dimensional architectural model showcasing their ideas.  Pupils then submit their design to an interschool competition.

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Inter-school competition

Each year participating classes can enter the Architecture in School Awards. To enter the competition Open City and the Canary Wharf Group asks for classes to submit a digital portfolio of work showcasing children’s design ideas in response to their design brief.

Prizes for the following categories are awarded to classes;

Best Class Effort, Most Imaginative Design, Model-Making Prize
, Most ‘Buildable’ Design
,  Design Development Prize

The top three entries are transformed into professional architectural models which go on public display in Canary Wharf's Crossrail Roof Garden. 


Open City and representatives from the Canary Wharf Group judge submissions on the following criteria:

→  Children have clearly worked with their professional mentor in developing and showcasing their design ideas and have incorporated knowledge acquired through their venue visits into their project plans.

→  Children have expressed their ideas in a well-designed and well-built architectural model and a portfolio of sketches, photographs and noted observations. 

→  Children have created imaginative and innovative design ideas and concepts that show an understanding of architectural design. 

→  Children have demonstrated consideration of design practicality and sustainable design. 

→  Children have produced creative and high-quality work which links to other areas of the curriculum.

To take part in next year's programme, please email

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2018 Competition Winners

The top all-rounder prizes were awarded to year three pupils from Reay Primary School who worked with Shade Abudul Architects, year four pupils from Streatham Wells Primary School who worked with architects from Studio Cherry and year six pupils from Alderwood Primary School who worked with architects from Bell Associates.

In their submission, Reay pupils wrote: "We wanted to make our buildings bright and colourful and to give them balconies so residents could enjoy the sunshine”. Pupils from Streatham Wells wrote “We need to make the entrance to Palace Road really inviting and exciting so people want to come here!” and pupils from Alderwood Primary took inspiration from a famous quote: “Solidarity would be the first principle we feel a shared city should work to meet".

Reay Primary Project Overview

Reay’s project started with a dramatic enquiry approach in which the children imagined that a sinkhole had opened up the middle of the Caldwell Gardens Estate across the road from their school. The terrible sinkhole had swallowed the estate almost whole destroying buildings and leaving people homeless and residents had called upon Reay Primary School pupils in their time of need.
During their project, the children took on the role of the ‘Sinkhole Reay-scue Company’ to repair damage and to reconstruct buildings. The children led the project at all levels. They used their knowledge of rocks and soils to figure out that the imagined heavy flooding has dissolved the limestone of the rocks under the estate. They used their Maths and Science knowledge to design pulleys to rescue the residents of the estate who were trapped in the sinkhole and then used their knowledge of rocks to fill the hole with ones that were non-permeable. Once that was out of the way the children were able to concentrate on the task of rebuilding the estate as a ‘Shared City’.

With their partner architect Shade, the children visited Build Studios to observe how different building materials are used in construction and to observe how important shared spaces are in modern buildings. The class then embarked on independent research on potential ideas for shared spaces before they started to design and build their city.

One of the most popular ideas amongst the children was the idea of transforming the rooftops of the estate into one giant interconnected rooftop garden with each rooftop linked to the building next to it by a clear glass bridge. The pupils wanted to create a city with plenty of green space in which buildings were full of light and people had spaces they could share and enjoy together. The children designed and built their model for their shared city through democratic voting processes facilitated by their teachers.

“I have been blown away by their perspectives, their concern for their local community and their dedication to making this work, often forgoing their own ideas for those with the majority of the vote. Their organisational, art, D&T and listening skills have improved immensely in a very short space of time. Their completed work speaks for itself. I could not be more proud of them”.
- Chris Marley, Year 3 Class Teacher

Judges comments: A lot of thought, consideration and research has clearly gone into the design of Reay’s ‘Shared City’. The pupils have come up with an original idea for how and why it was created and have displayed innovation, imagination and creativity in their re-design of the Caldwell Gardens Estate. Pupils have explored many areas of the e curriculum in exciting ways to design their city and have created amazing drawings and models showcasing carefully thought-out and truly collaborative ideas.

Streatham Wells Project Overview

Year four started their project by considering “What shared spaces can you think of?” and “Which shared spaces are most important to you?” Pupils then met Hannah and Warren Cherry, their partner design professionals, who showed them examples of interesting shared spaces including Granary Square, King’s Cross, London, and the Highline in New York which is a park built on an old railway line.

At the beginning of their project pupils had also been learning about the history of their local area, Streatham. Responding to the design brief, they decided to select this part of London and specifically Palace Road to redesign and include more shared spaces.

Pupils then visited Squire and Partners, Brixton and learnt about the history
of the former department store building before going on a tour to draw and gain inspiration from the firm’s incredible interiors and architectural models. After their trip to Squire & Partners, pupils felt very inspired and ready to begin designing their shared neighbourhood. They began by experimenting with drawing, ‘quick sketching’, making nets and modelling buildings from classroom resources.

Pupils also went on a site visit to Palace Road to identify areas they thought could be improved. From their site visit, pupils identified six key areas.

These included:
1. The ‘entrance’ to the east end.
2. The road and pavements
3. Their school – Streatham Wells
4. Palace Road Nature Garden
5. The demolished social housing
6. The dead end – a wasted area at the west end of Palace Road

Year four were then joined by Laura and Jimmy, Road Danger Reduction Managers from Lambeth Council. Along with Hannah and Warren, Laura and Jimmy helped pupils to create a collaborative drawing of Palace Road and the six key areas they’d decided to develop. Hannah and Warren took photographs of the pupil’s ideas and created a design sketch. This sketch helped pupils to visualise their neighbourhood and pupils felt ready to develop their final model.

In the first half of the summer term, in Geography pupils had been studying land use in the UK. As part of their topic, they went on a school trip to Wandsworth Household Waste Recycling Centre and took part in a paper making workshop. Consequently, pupils decided they’d like to use recycled and biodegradable materials to make their model, and also to use the paper they’d made on the course. Squire & Partners also very kindly donated leftover modelling scrap from their modelling workshop.

During their ‘Building Week’ pupils worked in groups to realise their designs by working together to create incredible 3D interpretations of their drawings using all of the materials they had gathered. The results were incredible.

Alderwood Primary Project Overview

Overview of the project: Pupils began their project by discussing the meaning of ‘shared’ and how this could be interpreted. Pupils also explored who they meant by the community and what all the different elements of the community would hope to gain from a shared space. Pupils then explored a great website called which helped them to understand how other people tried to adapt, change and improve their local areas. Pupils also researched the ‘21 coolest works of architecture in London’ on This gave pupils the opportunity to consider what they liked and disliked before beginning the task of planning their own ‘Shared City’.

After exploring what they would expect to find in a city pupils then focused in on users from different elements of the local community and considered what they would expect to find. Avery Hill Park is very close to Alderwood Primary School. The University is moving away from the site resulting in a large-scale redevelopment of the area. Consequently, pupils decided to focus on this as the basis for their design project.

After deciding on their project site, pupils created aerial views and elevation sketches of their site and then worked on drawing plan and elevation views of the buildings they would like to design for Avery Hill Park. Buildings included a music centre, a mindfulness centre, a water park, a theme park, and a treetop hotel.

Once they had their initial design ideas pupils began to consider the idea of scale and worked on squares that were 30cm squared which represented 25 metres on the ground. Pupils then looked at how these squares could fit together on their plot and created a scale plan of their site detailing where buildings would be situated.

Pupils then considered the viewpoints of potential different stakeholders and used their discussions to write a pitch for their building design to each stakeholder.

Pupils completed their project by experimenting with a range of different materials to make incredible models of the buildings that would go on their redeveloped shared neighbourhood.

“Our pupils have worked so hard on their models that they have been coming in at 8 am most days and are really proud of the final outcome”.
- Russell Harrison, year 6 class teacher


Best Model

Pupils from Arnhem Wharf Primary School worked with Fosters + Partners to create an amazing submission which won the prize of 'Best Model'. 

The class started their project with an initial discussion about architecture- what it is and how it impacts people. The next stage was to give the class some sketching and model making tools to explore their architectural ideas.  After introducing them to architecture, the pupils delved deeper into the project brief of a 'Shared City' and discussed what they thought this meant and what they liked about their local area (Docklands) and what they would change. Children investigated maps of the local area with a view to finding familiar landmarks and also to identify areas showing potential for new innovative developments of their choosing. This familiarised the children with the concept of adapting their own designs to a specific environment.

After further investigation of their local area, the children decided they wanted to make up and design their own new shared city, with fun and entertainment for the residents taking precedence, and plans including interesting things to do in an exciting and unusual environment.

Through these conversations, the group identified eight activity areas, so children worked in eight teams of four, with each group responsible for the particular area of their choice:

Team 1 – Sports, fitness and leisure, Team 2 – Residential, Team 3 – Central recreational park with a tall tower, Team 4 – Schools and public amenities, Team 5 – Museums area, Team 6 – Retail area
Team 7 – Tourist attractions and entertainment, Team 8 – Art galleries

Pupils discussed possible ways to arrange these areas that would allow for maximum accessibility and interconnectivity. The children had a very clear vision of a central park with a high tower, surrounded by the other sections of the city. With this in mind, it was agreed that a basic flower design would work well with seven ‘petal’ shape radial sections connected to the central area.



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Most Imaginative Design

Pupils began their project by visiting Clapham Library where they were inspired by the incredible shapes they found in the library.

The children then experimented with designing their own buildings by focusing on the theme of interesting shapes and used a range of natural materials and abstract stencils to create their designs. Pupils also examined photographs of key buildings in their local area and from around the world to find intriguing shapes to incorporate into their designs. Jasper designed a museum of Science and Technology inspired by shapes found in a church in Reykjavik and in rocket designs he found on the internet. Fruit and Vegetables inspired another design for a boarding school.

Pupils further explored the theme of shape by studying the work of famous Russian artist Kandinsky and used their Maths skills to investigate enlarging, rotating, reflecting and sequencing shapes. In sketching their designs pupils made plan and elevation drawings.

Pupils completed their project by transforming their sketches into 3D models using their D&T skills to create prototypes to ensure that scale and proportion were correct and that their models were strong enough to stand.

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Best Cross-Curricular Project

Pupils from Bursted Wood Primary School started their project by thinking about all of the areas of the curriculum that could link to the theme of a ‘shared city’ and then came up with their own topic plan. Pupils then thought about what a shared city meant to them and put their ideas on a mind map.

Pupils thought that the idea of a designing a park and other green spaces was a good place to start their project and incorporated this into their designs. Pupils also thought about closed areas where people could spend time together.

Once pupils had thought about what they would like their area to look like, they had to think about what size they would make their buildings on a plan.

In their Maths work, they did scale drawings to help them to think about scaling designs up or down. Pupils then thought about how they could link their project to Art. They looked at a cityscape and recreated their own. Pupils thought about what the city would look like in the daytime as well as the night time. Pupils also looked at how they could link their project to English. They wrote their own poems focusing on their thoughts about cities and home. Pupils then thought about how they could write a persuasive letter to the council putting across their thoughts about a shared city.

Finally, pupils explored local history through researching how Bexleyheath had changed throughout the years.

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Design Development Prize

Pupils from Stebon Primary School began their project by considering the idea of ‘sharing’ and why it is important. Pupils also discussed different shared spaces that make up London including libraries, schools, parks, stadia and playgrounds.

Pupils then developed their drawing skills through drawing London’s skyline and observing the different types of buildings that make up cities and the spaces between them.

As part of their project pupils visited the National Gallery which encouraged pupils to research other strange shaped buildings created specifically for housing art. This expanded their view of what buildings can be like and allowed them to start imagining and making their 3D city.

Pupils also included design elements from their initial design research by linking buildings using the spaces in between. They designed an airport with a glass-covered structure which acts as a gateway to the relaxing garden area. The garden then leads to the curved terminal buildings which leads out to the runway.

After completing all of their incredible drawing work pupils worked with their partner architects from Lipton Plant Architects to transform their drawings into incredible three-dimensional models and focused on how to make their models structurally strong as well as beautiful.


Most Buildable Design

For their project pupils from Lansbury Lawrence School focused on redeveloping Chrisp Street Market. Pupils chose this site because it is next to their school and some of the students even live on the site!

Pupils began their project with some site analysis, making notes and sketches. Pupils brainstormed “What do people do on the site?“ and“What would people like to see on the site and why?”. From completing their site analysis pupils decided to design and build a bicycle workshop, artist studios, skate park, playground, conservatory, housing, a swimming pool, a theatre, an outdoor cinema a school and public Library, an art gallery, a market, a bandstand and a bakery. In considering their designs pupils researched and took inspiration from lots of built examples and referred back to things they learnt about at their site visit of the Barbican.

Pupils then began their building by experimenting with different modelling techniques including paper folding and collaging. Pupils also experimented with constructing buildings using corrugated card, fabric, veneers, textured paper, and printed textures.

At the end of the programme pupils collected all the models together forming a “Re-imagined Chrisp Street Market”. Each group considered both built and unbuilt forms, creating a diverse and fun shared city space for all.

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Best Class Effort

Pupils from Five Elems Primary school started their project by considering what shared spaces were and why they needed them. Then as a class, they discussed what they would like to learn in each of their subjects and created their own topic plan linked to the National Curriculum.

Pupils then used their geography, ICT and RE skills to research maps and populations of their local area and what their different needs were. Pupils gathered inspiration for their building designs by researching shared buildings and spaces from around the world and kept a working wall of their ideas. Pupils also created drawings in their sketchbooks and created a class display from their research.

In transforming their sketches into models pupils learnt about scale, sustainability and how to use different materials creatively. Pupils also planned where each of their buildings should go and created maps of the area. Pupils then worked on how to connect each of their shared spaces and considered how people would travel. Pupils also researched how they could power their city and created friendly rules for it.

In their literacy lessons, pupils wrote about famous buildings they were interested in and designed web pages for a children’s architectural website. The children completed their project by hosting an exhibition to showcase all of their hard work.