The new science laboratory building at Dulwich College has won two of this year’s Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) annual awards - a RIBA London Award as well as a more prestigious RIBA National Award, the latter given to those buildings across the UK recognised as making a significant contribution to architecture. It was described by the award assessors as ‘a virtuoso of finish and precision’.
The new building, designed by architects Grimshaw, replaces an early 1950s building (an up to the minute facility in its day) and forms an integral part of the College’s current campus master plan. While it is a more prominent building than its predecessor, and very different in appearance, it is sensitive to the existing site, responding proactively to the Grade II* listed Barry buildings.
Sustainability is a core principle in the design and the building uses innovative, environmentally inexpensive and energy-efficient systems. The exterior façade is a collaboration between the architect 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 – the idea is to embody the synthesis of Art and Science. The well-designed landscaping around the building has also contributed significantly to the enhancement of the College’s frontage to College Road.
The first phase, opened in April 2015, provided 18 fully-equipped laboratories, three preparation rooms and the James Caird Hall (containing Sir Ernest Shackleton’s famous boat). The second phase, completed in July 2016, adds 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 (the George Farha Auditorium) and an outdoor piazza for recreation and performance.