The winner of the Percentage for Art Competition is “Hedge School” from AP+E. Although we had some excellent entries shortlisted, AP+E’s design won the school’s voting by some distance. All 3rd-6th class pupils, all parents and staff got the chance to vote in the competition and the decision was unanimous. We’d like to thank our panel for their help in getting to this stage: SinĂ©ad Dowling, Arts Officer, Emma Geoghan, Parent Rep and Architect with Meme, Eleanor Peters and Thomas Farrell (Board of Management) for their help in interviewing and shortlisting candidates. The following is a description from AP+E’s web site about the project:

The Hedge School is an informal learning space in nature where children are exposed to and learn from the elements. It is a place where children are educated in the basic principles of living such as growing food & plants, cooking in the open, ecosystems, climate, seasons, flora & fauna. In this way the natural elements become a stimulating part of the space and the experience; creating an engaging & adventurous learning environment; where children can hear the rain and feel the wind.

An important part of the learning experience is that the pupils will be able to grow their own food and follow the development of their plants as they progress in school. As the plants and creepers grow the Hedge School will become more sheltered, in this way the evolution and maintenance of the pavilion becomes part of the learning process.

The Hedge School also offers an alternative education situation in which children learn from observation and interaction with their direct environment. Through planting, growing, studying and finally eating their plants the children are not only taught basic skills but more importantly also learn how their actions directly affect their surroundings.

A circle of columns defines the space of the Hedge School in the green lawn. The shape of the pavilion reinforces the existing landscape plan and a path connects the pavilion to the other outdoor elements. The Hedge School is designed with the scale of a child in mind and can comfortably accommodate a class. The pavilion is entered by passing in between two columns, the space between which will gradually become narrower due to growing plants, resulting in secret passages through the hedge. Additional hinged doors allow for access of wheelchairs and wheelbarrows.

Within the pavilion a structure of platforms references the classic learning environment of the amphitheatre but also functions as an element that stimulates play. The platforms can be used as seating & stairs and the pupils are able to plant their vegetables in the integrated plant beds. The space as such will be unprogrammed but stimulate a variety of uses such as staging plays, outdoor (cooking) lessons,

The pavilion consists of a robust structure made out of sustainable and living materials; timber columns will support planters and wires that allow the vegetation to gradually cover the pavilion. The platforms, seating and plant beds in the pavilion are also constructed out of timber. Careful detailing will allow for a longevity of the Hedge School with minimal maintenance.

As the Hedge School is largely determined by vegetation and plants horticultural expertise is incorporated in the design process. This will also ensure that the amount of plant maintenance can be adjusted to suit specific holidays. Through the use of different plant varieties the pavilion will be growing all year round and the seasonal changes will create a continuously evolving appearance. Furthermore the path of the sun can be followed by shadows cast by the columns.

The interplay of architecture with nature in Hedge School, turns a learning environment into an ever evolving and changing art piece.