Special Award for Community Impact & Engagement

Presented to an exemplar project, that has demonstrated how successful community engagement can help deliver the highest standards of design whilst meeting the needs of local people.

Hackney School of Food is the proud winners of the Special Award for Community Impact & Engagement for the 2021 Civic Trust Awards.

Hackney School of Food / Hackney, Greater London

Text from the CTA brochure:

“Sitting on a prominent corner of the school site, Hackney School of Food is a joint venture between the charity Chefs in Schools and Mandeville Primary School (part of the LEAP federation of schools).

Together, the organisations are working to tackle child ill-health, malnutrition and obesity. The site encompasses the former caretaker’s house, surrounding garden and an underused part of the school grounds.

In 2018 Surman Weston was appointed to help the school and charity realise their ambitious vision for a food education hub. Working within a tight budget, the scheme is designed to be robust, unfussy and joyful, with the heart of the project being the educational kitchen in the converted caretaker’s house. The entire first-floor level was removed to create a bright and voluminous double-height open-plan space, with architectural interventions carefully targeted to the elements that add the most value to the educational experience.

The teaching kitchen is designed to be functional, accessible and fun-to-use, with height-adjustable cooking and washing stations and removable storage cupboards below the countertops permitting wheelchair users to make use of the area under the counter. The kitchen can accommodate an entire class of 30 students comfortably, with users ranging in age from five-year-old children to adults.

The project completely transforms the streetscape with a mural by renowned illustrator Jean Jullien enlivening the previously bland street elevation and gives the project a cheerful presence on the street. Slatted timber gates allow a visual connection and direct access to the shared kitchen garden and the street.

The gardens are a fundamental part of the project, allowing children to grow their food from seed, providing outdoor teaching spaces, a community hub outside of school hours, a pizza oven, a fire bowl and perimeter planting. It allows for a whole lesson and every aspect of food production to be undertaken outdoors where the children can harvest produce, they have grown, prepare a recipe and then cook it in a fun and interactive way.

The wilder gardens beyond support the teaching kitchen by allowing produce to be grown throughout the year, and includes an orchard, beehives, vegetable patches and natural play spaces.

The project was completed in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite opening in challenging circumstances, the positive impact on the community has been astounding. During the following months, the kitchen has been used constantly by volunteers to prepare and deliver thousands of meals to vulnerable members of the local community and has proved to be a treasured community asset.

Even with the challenges presented by physical distancing, gardening was seen as a safe and healthy way of keeping fit and happy during a time of unprecedented social isolation. In these difficult times, the volunteers have reflected on how important the gardens have become to them, providing a space to engage with nature, make a positive contribution to the community and meet their neighbours.”

Images: Surman Weston / Pau Ros

Surman Weston
LEAP Federation / Chefs in Schools
Structural Engineer
Structure Workshop
Main Contractor
Modern Arc
Landscape Architects
Lidia D’Agostino / Miria Harris
Services Engineer
Peter Deer and Associates
Graphic Design
Jean Jullien Studio

CTA brochure

Download the Awards PDF brochure.

“A really thoughtful project that maximises every resource that it can, with such a small budget. This project embodies community and civicness.”

“This is a very impressive schools initiative that has become a great success within the community.”

Judges’ Comments


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