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Dulwich College Masterplan

South London School Building design by various architects, England, UK

post updated 1 January 2022 ; 13 Oct 2016 + 8 Dec 2011

Design: Grimshaw

Location: Dulwich Common, London SE21 7LD, United Kingdom

Grimshaw completes first school project: a new science building for Dulwich College

Dulwich College

Photos © Daniel Shearing

Dulwich College Science Building

The Laboratory at Dulwich College is a state-of-the-art science building located in the heart of the school’s historic campus in south London. The £14 million Grimshaw-designed scheme was officially opened earlier this month and is the first completed school project in the practice’s education portfolio.

Dulwich College

Within the building, science laboratories for the Lower and Junior Schools surround a 240-capacity multi-purpose auditorium designed for the use of the College and the wider community. The Laboratory provides generous teaching accommodation, a three-storey atrium, an outdoor piazza for recreation and performance, and five ‘Informatics’ suites enabling teaching with the latest IT and creating spaces for truly collaborative learning. The scheme also includes Middle and Upper School laboratories linked by the James Caird Hall containing Sir Ernest Shackleton’s lifeboat of that name.

Dulwich College

Reflecting Dulwich College’s approach of cross-discipline learning and collaboration, the building has been designed with a balance of formal and informal learning spaces. Biology, physics and chemistry departments each have their own dedicated floor, with the option of adjusting the individual labs to create ‘science studio’ environments. Communal spaces are open and inviting and provide the opportunity to share ideas and discoveries in a relaxed setting.

Dulwich College

The building itself is physically open, designed in an ‘S’ shape, with large windows linking students with the outside world. To prepare for the teaching needs of the future, individual science labs are open and flexible in their configuration with furniture that can easily be rearranged as required.

Dulwich College

The exterior of the building is both contemporary and sympathetic to a context that includes the adjacent Italianate building by Charles Barry Jr. Embracing pattern, colour, texture and proportion the Grimshaw design team developed a composition of materials that ensured the new building sits in harmony with its surrounding historical neighbours. Materials in the façade include terracotta, bronze anodised aluminium, and pre-cast concrete panels.

Grimshaw collaborated with the sculptor, Peter Randall-Page RA, to design a façade that contains an elegant pattern based on the Lindenmeyer algorithm which replicates the growth processes of plants and is found in all branches of science. Colour is also used to differentiate the formal, public facing sides of the building from the informal school-facing sides, with a cream colour palette for the former and terracotta for the latter.

Dulwich College

The Laboratory houses a newly commissioned sculpture by Conrad Shawcross RA, developed in conjunction with art scholars at Dulwich and is also home to exhibitions by pupils. Displays of scientific and historic artefacts give a sense of discovery, with Shackleton’s lifeboat taking pride of place in the James Caird Hall.


Delivering a sustainable building was a key objective for both Dulwich College and Grimshaw and a number of architectural solutions have been employed. Photovoltaic panels have been fitted on all available roof space, and the building is self-cooling through the use of fixed visors on the windows to shield the morning and afternoon sun.

As an alternative to air conditioning, the building uses ground-source cooling in the form of a Thermally Active Building System (TABS), extracting water below ground and running it through ceilings and soffits to extract heat. The Laboratory is on target to achieve a BREEAM Excellent rating.

Grimshaw Partner, Jolyon Brewis said, “Working with Dulwich College has been a thoroughly rewarding experience. The attention to detail in the design reflects the high standard set by the client, who has sought to deliver an exceptional building of real value to the school and wider community. The Laboratory will inspire students though science and the arts for many years to come.”

Dr Joe Spence, Master of Dulwich College said, “The Laboratory has fulfilled everything we wanted of it; it stands next to and in harmony with, but is not unduly deferential to, our iconic Barry Buildings of 1870 and plays its part in reflecting the College’s commitment to tradition and innovation. In accordance with our original aim, it is proving to be a first-class home for science and an equally successful venue for the arts.”

He continues, “It was a pleasure to work with all in the Grimshaw design team over three very happy years to bring to fruition a truly exceptional centre of learning and a worthy addition to the built environment of Dulwich College and Southeast London more generally.”


The Laboratory sits within a wider master plan for the school which Grimshaw has designed to increase opportunities for social, leisure and study areas for students. Landscaping for the area will be developed over the coming months to complement the new building.

Dulwich College

Photography © Daniel Shearing

Dulwich College Science Building News

Grimshaw Architects win Dulwich College Project

Shortlisted architects included Amanda Levete Architects, Hopkins Architects, and Walters and Cohen.

Grimshaw Wins Competition For Dulwich College Science Building

Dr Joe Spence, the Master of Dulwich College, and his Chairman of Governors, Lord Turnbull, are delighted to have secured the appointment of Grimshaw Architects to work with the College on plans for its science building, including creative reuse of the existing 1950s facilities – Phase 1 of the Master Plan devised by John McAslan + Partners through the early months of 2011.

Dulwich College Science Building
Dulwich College Science Building sketch : Grimshaw

The competition to select architects for this project was organised by Caroline Cole at Colander. A long list of nine practices was invited to submit an expression of interest, four practices were then short listed to attend a competitive interview, after which the winner was selected. The four short listed practices were Amanda Levete Architects, Grimshaw, Hopkins Architects and Walters and Cohen.

Grimshaw deeply impressed the jury panel. Dr Spence said:
“Grimshaw persuaded us all that they are dedicated to the job of ensuring that we will have an inspiring, practical Science facility alongside the listed Barry building, ahead of our 400th Anniversary in 2019. We feel that they have already revealed in our early dealings with them why they have such a reputation for innovation, craftsmanship and sustainability – and for ensuring that works of art are integral to their architectural plans.

This last factor particularly excites us as we plan the renovation of our Science facilities. The utter division of “the Two Cultures” has cost Britain dear and we’re determined to make an artistic statement in a Science building to say that we understand the interdependency of the Sciences and the Arts.“

Grimshaw’s team for this project will be led by the firm’s Managing Partner, Jolyon Brewis, who lives in Dulwich and Richard Blackwell, Associate. Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, President of the Royal Academy, is delighted that his company has won the Dulwich contract and has indicated that he will take a personal interest in the project as appropriate.

Dulwich College Science Building images / information from Grimshaw


31 Jan 2011

Dulwich College Masterplan in London

John McAslan + Partners wins Dulwich College masterplan

Photos: Hufton + Crow

John McAslan + Partners (JMP) has won a competition to produce a masterplan for Dulwich College, London. The £20m project will transform the famous independent school’s 75 acre campus in time for its 400th anniversary in 2019.

JMP’s design will rework the 1400-pupil campus to create a cohesive site around an existing Grade II listed 19th century school building designed by Charles Barry, Jr. and will define a series of phased refurbishments and new building interventions within the school estate.

Dulwich College building Dulwich College
Dulwich College building photos : Hufton + Crow

The campus, which has expanded over the last century without a masterplan, currently consists of a collection of disparate buildings. A priority of the new masterplan is to re-establish a clear and flexible pattern of movement and improved navigation for students and staff, as well as transforming redundant spaces into areas that contribute to college life. The masterplan will strengthen the existing site layout, which is centred around the primary axes of the Barry building and will provide better access to and use of all parts of the site.

The design places emphasis on the impressive Palladian character of the original school building. The re-landscaping of the main Western entrance to the Barry building, as well as the large car parks to its rear, will improve access and views of the existing structure, which have been hindered by years of site development. A refurbishment of the listed building will create a range of flexible spaces that allow the school to harness the advantages of modern teaching methods, creating formal and informal learning environments.

John McAslan + Partners went through a very competitive tender process – organised by Caroline Cole from Colander – and was appointed ahead of Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios, Bennetts Associates, Grimshaw Architects, Arup and Marks Barfield Architects.

Aidan Potter, Director of Urban Design and Infrastructure at the practice said: “We are delighted to be working on such as prestigious project. The College’s masterplan draws upon JMP’s experience of designing modern educational environments and the practice’s expertise in restoring buildings of particular architectural merit, creating a forward-looking design that remains sensitive to the College’s long history.”

JMP has committed to an extensive programme of consultation with the school and pupils during the project. Dr Joe Spence, The Master of Dulwich College said: “The commissioning of John McAslan + Partners as our masterplanners is the most important decision I have taken in my 18 months at the College. I am determined that we should make sense of our 75 acre site and the best use of all our buildings, with the iconic Barry buildings at their heart. It’s already proving a real pleasure to work with JMP and the whole school community is excited by the opportunity this project provides.

“This year sees the 200th anniversary of the Dulwich Picture Gallery and the decade will end with the 400th anniversary of the foundation of the College, as Edward Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift at Dulwich. I would like the school to be stronger than it has ever been by 2019 and how it looks and utilises its space and buildings will be important to that. Dulwich College is a bold boys’ school and it is McAslan’s innate understanding of this which will help us to find the right solutions for what will remain a ruggedly handsome site.”

Dulwich College Masterplan images / information from John McAslan + Partners

Dulwich College masterplan design : John McAslan

Location: Dulwich College, College Road, Camberwell, London, England, UK

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