Two Hands Preschool

A colourful nursery in Shepherd’s Bush, London that combines stimulating educational environments with environmentally-conscious design. The new spaces at the Two Hands Preschool are a mixture of robust materials for everyday use and warm interiors that reflect the comforts of home.


  • Use: Nursery school
  • Location: London Borough of Hammersmith
  • Size: 500m² GIA
  • Status: Complete
  • Awards
    • 2023 BD Education Architect of the Year, Finalist
  • Date: November 2022


  • Client: Two Hands Preschool
  • Quantity Surveyor: Geoff Beardsley and Partners
  • Approved Inspector: Socotec
  • Contractor: Evo Space
  • Services Engineer: Hive Design
  • Joinery: Art Bespoke Cabinets
  • Photography © Will Scott

I’ve been delighted with vPPR’s work on our brand new preschool, both in terms of the process and the outcome. The compliments are flying in from prospective parents and staff, but most importantly, we’ve already seen how well the space serves the children and meets their needs.

Joanna Shall, Director, Two Hands Preschool


A series of architectural elements encourage exploration and play without creating overly-controlled, prescriptive experiences.  Inspired by the well-known educational philosophies of Montessori, Froebel and Reggio Emilia, the Two Hands approach is focused on positivity, thoughtfulness and understanding. This is reflected in the design response, such as the use of bold primary shapes and colours in natural finishes. Triangles, circles and squares are used to create a kind of internal street that can be used in a variety of different ways by the children. Many of these forms are also used for storage which is always essential for educational organisations.

The colourful playfulness continues across the main space, with brightly-painted pillars used to designate different zones. A servery area has been created to look like a market stall, which opens out onto a dining area that also doubles up as a cookery classroom, all at child height. The dining room can be separated from the main space by a curtain and then there is an additional sleeping room, separated by a second curtain that can become a stage for performances.

The entire space has been carefully considered to allow for views through different areas so that teachers can oversee children while changing a nappy and the headteacher can survey the nursery from her office, using portholes cut into internal walls. The behind-the-scenes areas are made of more durable materials that reflect traditionally institutional environments but there is still an element of joy, such as yellow lino flooring and blue tile grout.



Sustainable and environmental aspects are reflected in the natural materials and finishes:

  • Valchromat used in the joinery throughout is made of wood fibres impregnated with organic colouring agents, the colour through properties makes the design robust and made to last through the often bumps and tumbles. The design was calculated in a specific way to minimise waste in cutting the panels. Each element is fixed individually to allow all sections to be reused individually at the end of life. The colour and warmth of the blue, green, red & yellow valchromat contributes to the wellbeing of the space.
  • Cork flooring installed is made from recycled bottle stoppers with a remarkable carbon balance at -101 kg CO2eq /m2. In addition, cork has excellent acoustic properties, creates noise reduction and prevents sound and vibration transmission.
  • The courtyard floor area is made from shredded locally sourced recycled tyres, a water permeable safety bound surface allows no drainage to be visible however access by access panels. At the end of life the surface can be broken up and reused elsewhere.
  • By installing a variety of hardy plants, growing fruits and vegetables, not only increasing and improving the ecology of the area but educates the children to care for the natural environment around them, allowing them to connect and care about nature.
  • Recycled and pre-loved items and equipment have been installed in the preschool were possible.

Operational services tend to have one of the highest impact on the embodied carbon:

  • The air source heat pump located on the roof allows warm fresh air to be circulated in the colder seasons.
  • Natural ventilation is utilised via the large opening sliding doors to the courtyard in the warmer seasons.
  • The lighting is designed specifically for the use of each space with sensors to avoid excess electrical usage when not needed. Dimmers have been installed to adjust the lighting output levels to the daylight levels and internal requirements.

Social Values have been adopted throughout the use of the building:

  • Two hands has a social mission by having a diverse intake that will support the development of all children.
  • Focusing on the reducing the disadvantage gap and championing inclusivity, one in five places are reserved for non fee paying children from low- income families.
  • Operating as a paperless company, all documents will be store on a digital cloud.
  • A community hub has been created out of hours including family hub drop-in support.

Ground Floor Plan