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Andrew Wood Associates - Southgate School Science Laboratory

Andrew Wood Associates

The brief was simple, create a new science lab for a space-stretched science department. The process of delivering the lab was anything but …

Photographs by

Paul Smoothy












We were given an atrium space as the site location and were asked to in-fill the first floor to create the additional floor space required. The ground floor space at the bottom of the atrium was to be used as common room space during bad weather, so we were keen to retain the natural light that reached the ground floor, despite filling the atrium at first floor with the new lab. It was the issue of light that drove the design of project.

We treated the lab like an ark, spacing the lab from each side of the atrium space to create a continuous void. It floated in the space with daylight passing around it on all four sides. Sun pipes were positioned in the void to transmit daylight from the roof and lighting was placed around the sides to light up and down. The underside of the lab received a stretched fabric foil, back-lit and curved to suggest the hull of a boat. The sun pipes feel a little like ribs and have had a profound effect on the space, passing daylight directly to where it was needed.

The DFES were all about value. They took a lot of convincing of the benefit of the sun pipes, they saw the light slots around the lab as lost floor space, a top lit lab wasn’t in the rule-book. Quality of environment and ingress of natural light was pretty low down on the DFES agenda, but with persuasion and careful cost management the DFES agreed. The lab was opened on 2nd February 2005 by the Minister for Education, however with three weeks to go, the main contractor had still not ordered – let alone installed – the Barrisol fabric foils. With the school’s backing, we took emergency action and went directly to Barrisol and proceeded with the order ourselves to get the lab finished with hours to spare of the grand opening!

Southgate School is a mixed sex state school and teaches years 7-13 (ages 11-18 years). The project was completed in 2005 with a budget of £300,000 before VAT. The main contractor was Botes Building Limited.