The Observatory Block at Graveney School – 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 and uses walkways, terraces and differing levels to facilitate teaching of STEAM subjects.
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, we were 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 CLT, with aluminium and timber-framed glazing, the building is finished in white render and clad in white perforated metal.