Swanke Hayden Connell Architects


Name of Company:Swanke Hayden Connell Architects
Programme Name:The Haggerston School Project, Hackney
Staff in London:115


In partnership with The Building Exploratory charity in Hackney, Swanke Hayden Connell Architects (SHCA) undertook a programme of workshops with 24 design and technology students from Year 9 in the Haggerston School. The aim of the programme was to inspire engage and educate, and to encourage students to consider careers in design, architecture and the built environment, at the same time raising awareness of their local heritage.

School lessons had already provided students with an initial awareness of design. The project was designed to further their understanding of design, form, scale and context, and the Haggerston 1960's Erno Goldfinger designed School's 'Grade 2 Listed' status provided a perfect subject of architectural study.

The project ran weekly 90 minute workshops, starting with a scale workshop which involved building, from cardboard and other materials, a household object at varying scales. This session introduced the main task which was to build models of their landmark school in its urban context at 1:500 and in architectural detail form at 1:100 scales.


During 2007, SHCA set up an internal committee of 8 professional and support staff led by the Managing Director to review and consider their community initiatives. The group strongly recommended that they support their employees' wishes and work with organisations local to their office in the Borough of Hackney that could benefit from the use of their professional skills as designers and architects in the local community. It was from this basis, and with the assistance of City Action, an employee volunteering broker, that the partnership with the Building Exploratory was born

From internal survey results, SHCA recruited 12 employee volunteers who had expressed an interest in community involvement. The volunteers ran the workshops at Haggerston School on a rotating basis from January to April. The team received direct mentoring and training from senior staff and developed considerable confidence and improved communication skills. Alongside the workshops, presentations of the completed and in-progress work were produced for use by the school.


Through the project, students learnt how architects evaluate and realise design solutions using 3D skills, drawings and models; the architectural characteristics of scale, form, context, texture, light and materials; the application of practical modelling techniques and materials to explore ideas and proto-typing and the importance of design and the challenges that face designers.

SHCA and the teachers at the school hope to see far-reaching results reflected in the students' exam results, especially in light of the full attendance at workshops and the contribution made to coursework. All feedback from students was most positive.

Benefits to the community through the Haggerston School and work experience project include: engaging experienced outside professionals to contribute to course work; encouraging students to enter design professions to positively impact the environment; raising the school's profile in an active CCI programme; learning teamwork, practical skills of communication, expression and 3D model making; increasing awareness of the environment and our impact upon it.

The project has also inspired SHCA to more than double their intake of work experience students from the local community and elsewhere in order to encourage students into the design professions through active community involvement.