Curl la Tourelle Head builds first socially distanced school tent

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Above: Pop-up tent concept trialled at Manorfield Primary School, London © Kilian O’Sullivan

British architecture firm Curl la Tourelle Head has built first socially distanced tent, a pop-up school proposal at Manorfield Primary School in London to optimise social distancing among pupils and teachers during post COVID-19 period.

An original concept initiated by the London-based architects, the tent measures 6x18m and is supplied by Cumbria-based marquee specialist, Original Marquees. The temporary structure has been used to host classrooms and as a lunch area for pupils, delivering at least 25% more socially distanced capacity than what the school currently offers. The architects aim to demonstrate that under the constraints imposed by COVID-19, it is still possible to create an environment that can safely accommodate more pupils but also allow the social distancing rules to be observed.

Above: Seating arrangement to enable social distancing within a classroom setting © Curl la Tourelle Head

Paul Jackson, Headteacher
, Manorfield Primary School, said, “Our children have been out of school for far too long. We want to bring as many children back to school in as safe a way as possible.
We won’t bring back more children than it is safe to and need to find creative solutions to enable the wider opening of schools. The creation of additional pop-up accommodation in our playground will support us in doing this and meeting the needs of our children. We are very excited to see more of them returning to school.”

Above: Proposed pop-up classroom and washing facility that enable social distancing © Curl la Tourelle Head 

Inspired by outdoor learning at schools in Denmark, Curl la Tourelle Head’s proposal directly addresses the most pressing issue that many schools are now facing across the UK – which is maintaining social distancing as pupils return to their classrooms.
The concept focuses on utilising outdoor space to ease the circulation load in existing school buildings. It involves reusing resources including festival marquees, that would otherwise be dormant, to build temporary classrooms and portable facilities incorporated with the two-metre social distancing rules. Not only will the pop-up structures enable better spacing between individuals, they will also create more capacity to take on further pupils. As well as improving air-flow and wellbeing, the architects see this as an opportunity to utilise public or large outdoor spaces in unconventional ways that might not be thought of previously.

Wayne Head, Director, Curl la Tourelle Head, said, “Our pop-up school initiative offers a robust and adaptable suite of temporary structure options, ranging from simple canvas marquees to fully operational, insulated and engineered facilities capable of servicing entire year groups through the planned ‘big summer of catch-up’ and autumn term beyond. We are confident that we have the solution to help schools increase their capacity and bring back more pupils, while still following the social distancing rules and ensuring a safe environment for the children and staff.”


Curl la Tourelle Head is currently in discussion with other schools across the country and overseas, with the aim of rolling out the concept further and wider. In addition to Original Marquees, the architects are partnering with global temporary structure provider, Veldeman, to produce pop-up accommodation that can cater for full year groups and be lit with lecture theatre equipment, heating and air conditioning.

The pop-up tent at Manorfield Primary School is expected to stay until the end of the current school term.

Above: Veldeman’s temporary structures at Universiteit Antwerpen, Wilrijk © Jeroen Willems