The 790m² Observatory Block at Graveney School uses walkways, terraces and different teaching levels to facilitate the teaching of STEAM subjects
The Observatory – which lies adjacent to the Grade II-listed, 19th-century Furzedown House, the 20th-century Red House and school hall – sits at the centre of the school’s campus.
The building is Urban Projects Bureau’s second scheme at Graveney School in Tooting, south London. Funding for a new eight-classroom teaching block was secured from the government’s Condition Improvement Fund in 2017, which was then topped up with crowdfunding to extend the brief to 10 classrooms.
The building accommodates the school’s STEAM initiatives by encouraging students to think about space, time and the universe through physical means: walkways, terraces and teaching spaces at all levels facilitate this. A cylindrical staircase leads to a pop-up observatory on the roof.
The new building is linked to an existing study centre via a three-storey staircase which grows as one moves up, with views to other parts of the building and the wider school campus. At the centre is a feature chandelier specially designed to allow students to code it to represent mathematical patterns and constellations.
Using the eclectic mix of surrounding buildings as inspiration, the architect was keen to create a building that appears both lightweight and solid. The building’s massing therefore has a triple-block composition and tiered roofline. Externally, it creates a new gathering place with an accessible ramp cutting through the building’s centre to create a double-storey void.
Constructed out of brickwork, with aluminium and timber-framed glazing, the building is clad in white perforated metal.
Wandsworth Council approved the £1.8 million proposals for the extension of Graveney Upper School on the site of a former family centre at the start of 2018.
Urban Projects Bureau first worked with Graveney in 2014 on a project to rethink the campus and provide new external teaching and event spaces, an entrance pavilion and SEN facility. Funding for Bradford House was secured via the Academies Capital Maintenance Fund. The building won a RIBA London Award in 2016.
The practice continues to work closely with the Tooting school community through design workshops and collaborations on ongoing campaigns promoting diversity and social inclusion in the built environment, including the pioneering ‘Celebrating Architecture’.
Photo credit: Killian O'Sullivan