Dulwich College Laboratory   London, UK

The first stage of a master plan for Dulwich College, this new laboratory building replaces an outdated 1950s building to create spaces for educational excellence while also responding to the adjacent Grade II listed building by Charles Barry Jr.


Arranged in an inverted ‘S’ shape, the teaching rooms wrap around a central shared space with views across the college grounds. The building’s attenuated height, from three storeys facing College Road to two storeys opposite the playing fields, expresses the functional arrangement within.

The taller building houses Senior School laboratories, as well as the central circulation of the James Caird Hall, named in honour of Ernest Shackleton’s lifeboat, which is on display. Smaller volumes contain laboratories for Junior and Lower schools, as well as IT facilities.

Each façade uniquely responds to needs for shading and light according to diurnal change but all carry references to the terracotta facings of Barry’s campus buildings with contemporary interpretations of the material expressed in the patterned cladding.

As well as uniting the campus and offering students an exemplary setting for scientific endeavour, the project includes a 240-seat multipurpose auditorium that creates a link between the college and its wider community.

Ernest Shackleton's famous boat, in which he and five crew made their famous 1,300 km journey, has pride of place in the James Caird Hall named after one of Dulwich's most famous alumni. The 13 m high atrium is a suitable setting for the boat, showcasing the enormity of the challenge faced by Shackleton and his crew.

The 'Dragon's Curve' façade is the result of a collaboration with renowned artist Peter Randall-Page RA, with whom Grimshaw worked on The Eden Project's Core building. The Lindenmayer system-based design is embedded across the lab's exterior, replicating the growth processes of plants and embodying the cross between art and science.

Biology, physics and chemistry departments each have their own dedicated floor, with the option of adjusting the individual labs to create ‘science studio’ environments.

The building employs a number of sustainable technologies, including fixed visors on the windows to shield the morning and afternoon sun, and ground-source cooling in the form of a Thermally Active Building System (TABS). A highly efficient insulation envelope ensures maximum heat retention when required, and the generous windows face north, allowing ample daylight to permeate the building. The Laboratory is on target to receive a BREAAM Excellent rating.

One of the defining features of a Grimshaw building is that they show you how it has been constructed; you can see the workings that have gone into it, quite literally, in what is revealed rather than hidden.

Dr Joseph Spence, Master of Dulwich College

London, UK

Project Type
Education →

Dulwich College

4400 sq m



Daniel Shearing