Ravensbourne College is a university sector college in the field of digital media and design. Completed in 2010, the new building sits next to The O2 in the Greenwich Peninsula. By moving from outer London to a new purpose-built building in inner London, the College aimed to bring the institution closer to partner institutions and the industries to which it relates. The new building is therefore designed to resonate with the working environment of industry. It is also designed to meet the demands of 21st century learning by providing flexible open studio spaces, embedded with state of the art technologies, that can easily be subdivided to enable a variety of learning styles needed by the different courses offered by the college.
The open studio learning environment is laid out on split floors arranged around a stepped atrium in which the vertical circulation is located to allow for visual and physical communication between the college’s departments. The stepped atrium also provides the college with a lower atrium, rising from the ground to the 3rd floor, in which publicly accessible events can be held, and an upper atrium that is used by the college only for informal gatherings, inter-departmental events, colloquiums, workshops as well as large lectures. This variety of scales and types of formal and informal learning spaces, together with the flexible studio spaces that enable a variety of spatial configurations for different departments, have provided Ravensbourne College with a 21st century learning environment which is no longer focused on the teacher-centred paradigm but a learner-centred paradigm in which learning is experienced as a collaborative process involving students, their peers, faculty, and ready access to the world via the internet.
The building is also accredited with a BREEAM qualification of environmental excellence. The two atria are connected to the external façade to provide a stack effect for natural cooling, as well as to visually connect the interior learning spaces with the surrounding urban context. The building is also designed to be low maintenance and highly flexible which over time allows for less building waste. The massing is kept compact to provide a very low ratio of façade to interior surface area, and to achieve a deep open building that allows for natural cooling. Each studio space has at least one exterior aspect with a double row of windows that provides ample daylight and offsets the need for artificial lighting. The studio spaces are also cooled by a chilled beam system that efficiently heats and cools the building by dispersing the energy through the floor slab.
To speak to the college’s ambition to be a global institution focused in the relationship between design and industry, the external envelope of the building is designed as an aluminium rainscreen cladding, comprising of three bespoke tiles that tessellate following a non-periodic pattern. The rainscreen accordingly conceals the exoskeletal structure of the building and provides a variety of window shapes and sizes that both differentiate the open studios by providing different views of the exterior and lighting levels, and express the culture of contemporary production taught in the college.
The building was delivered during the 2008 recession under tight time and budget restrictions. It won a British Construction Industry Award in 2011.