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‘A virtuoso of finish and precision’

Posted: 30 Jun 2017

The Laboratory Dulwich College

The Laboratory at Dulwich College receives RIBA London Award 2017 and RIBA National Award 2017.

Dulwich College is delighted to announce that The Laboratory has received both the RIBA London Award 2017 and the prestigious RIBA National Award 2017, the latter an award given to those buildings across the UK recognised as making a ‘significant contribution to architecture.’

Described by the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) as ‘a virtuoso of finish and precision’, The Laboratory, designed by architects Grimshaw, has provided an exemplary home for the Arts and Science at Dulwich College.

Dr Joe Spence, Master of Dulwich College, said ‘The Laboratory is the College’s most significant contribution to the built environment of the College since the iconic Barry Buildings were constructed in the 1860s. We are deeply grateful to all our supporters and community in having embarked on this great adventure which has transformed the pupils’ learning environment and provided wonderful opportunities for even greater engagement with the wider community.’

The Laboratory is a facility that supports the College’s engagement with the local community, including its Saturday School programme for children from local state schools, GCSE enrichment and extension visits from Bonus Pastor, Bromley, A level Physics teaching for students from St Thomas the Apostle College and a range of SSLP (Southwark Schools Learning Partnerships) events. The Laboratory – notably its James Caird Hall and George Farha Auditorium – are popular venues for community events, including the Dulwich Literary Festival, organised and sponsored by Dulwich Books, in association with Dulwich College.  

The Laboratory replaced a dated 1950s building with a contemporary take on what an educational facility should be, and yet it is sensitive to the existing site, in particular the Grade II star listed Barry Buildings, cohesively unifying the entire campus. The first phase opened in April 2015 and includes 18 fully-equipped laboratories, three preparation rooms and the James Caird Hall. The second phase was completed in July 2016 and embraces three laboratories for the Lower and Junior Schools, five adaptable ‘Informatics’ suites with free-thinking spaces for creative learning and cross-curricular collaboration, a seminar room with full video conferencing facilities, a versatile 240-seat auditorium and an outdoor piazza for recreation and performance.

The exterior façade is a collaboration between Grimshaw and artist Peter Randall-Page RA, designed using the Lindermeyer or L-system algorithm and whose ‘Dragon’s Curve’ pattern can be seen embedded on the cladding, embodying the synthesis of Art and Science. The L-system replicates the growth processes of plants and is also used across the sciences and adopted by composers and artists to replicate the beauty and rhythms of the natural order.

The Laboratory has been explicitly designed as a home for Science and a venue for the Arts. Embodying the symbiotic relationship between creativity and discovery, a Conrad Shawcross RA sculpture, Exploded Paradigm (Inverted), has been designed to complement the spirit of endurance proudly represented by Sir Ernest Shackleton’s James Caird lifeboat, which is displayed at the heart of the James Caird Hall.

Sustainability is a core principle in the design of The Laboratory and the new building uses innovative, environmentally inexpensive and energy-efficient systems.

The bold undertaking of constructing a landmark £21.7m building for Science and the Arts has been made possible by significant funding from the endowment, and generous philanthropic support from OAs, parents, past parents, College staff, trusts, foundations and friends of the College.

In addition to the RIBA award, The Laboratory is the recipient of a regional Local Authority Building Control Award for 'Educational Building of the Year 2017'. 

Winner RIBA National Award 2017 logo