New centre for cerebral palsy

London’s only specialist centre for children with cerebral palsy is to be rebuilt as a “sensory school” featuring a wooden walkway that pupils play like a giant xylophone.

The radical designs of the “Xylophone building” in Muswell Hill will use different sounds, smell, textures and light to stimulate the senses of its pupils.

Architects pH+ last month secured approval for a £5.8 million rebuild of the London Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy, which is being expanded to meet growing need.

About 355 children in London each year are diagnosed with cerebral palsy due to brain injury before, during or after birth. The centre aims to double its roll from 10 to about 20 children, most of whom have complex disabilities, and increase the number attending drop-in sessions from 28 to 60.

The new building will have a sensory roof, reflective cladding to enable pupils to see their own reflection, a hydrotherapy pool and a hub for parents. The outside area will include adventure and sensory gardens, a “mud kitchen” and an ampitheatre. Many of the children have limited communication skills, epilepsy or visual impairment.

Jo Honigmann, chief executive of the school, suggested the idea to architects after seeing an accessible aerial walkway design on a holiday in the French Alps.

“I love the way it leads to an outdoor classroom for our children high up in the trees,” she said. “The ultimate destination is a rooftop garden. Every singe part of it is an experience in itself.”

Andy Hunter, director of pH+, said: “We have worked closely with the centre and its pupils to develop a series of spaces that will provide the optimum learning environment. We’re so proud to work on a project that shows how design can directly affect lives.”

The independent school was founded in 1963 and supports children from birth until age 14. It attracts parents from across London keen to access help to enable their children learn to live as independently as possible.

The new building, alongside its current site in Coppetts Road, will also enable help to be given to adults with a range of conditions including Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s and those recovering from a stroke.

Extra information on the centre is available here: London centre for children with cerebral palsy

The aim is for it to open by September next year. An appeal is in progress to boost the £1 million raised to date: