In 2015, we joined forces with Architecture 00. Together, we enjoy collaborating in a shared environment where strategic, urban and social designers, architects, programmers and economists practice design beyond its traditional borders. 00 work with individuals, governments, corporations and communities to solve problems and anticipate change, and to design successful platforms and places. As a studio it aims to reach beyond the design of objects themselves to the social, economic and environmental systems behind them.

Belvue School

Studio Weave have been appointed by Belvue School, a secondary school for boys and girls aged between 11 and 19 with moderate to severe learning difficulties and a range of other additional education needs, to design a unique and magical classroom facility that sits separately from the main school building and adjacent to a woodland that the school has recently gained custodianship over

The project went beyond designing a new building for the school, it was about creating a narrative for the woodland that would open up imaginative ways of engaging with this natural asset at Belvue, as part of a rich learning environment. 

The classrooms were required to provide two types of much-needed learning spaces for the school: a calm, informal teaching space; a separate space for a student-run school café; as well as storage.

The school site sits adjacent to under-utilised woodland and the project brief called for the design of two new woodland classrooms that sit separately from the main school building and provide a set of new unique extracurricular facilities. We identified that the boundary between the playground and woods marks the border between familiar school territory and the magical, mysterious world of trees. This very important threshold, symbolising the entrance to another world, like the gate to the secret garden, or the cupboard to Narnia became a focal point and we consequently designed the woodland classrooms to act as a gatehouse between one world and another.

The classrooms were required to provide two types of much-needed learning spaces for the school: a calm, informal teaching space; and a separate space for a student-run school café. The ‘cosy lounge’ is designed to be used for teaching and engaging with the woodland, offering a connection to wildlife that many students don’t otherwise have, as well as being a private space in which to calm down. The ‘sociable kitchen’ includes a café, with food preparation area and dining for small groups of staff and students. This function enables students to learn essential life skills in their transition to becoming citizens in an inclusive society leading to employment, through taking on responsibilities and being more autonomous.

The interior spaces were designed to capture a domestic quality, which felt different to a standard classroom and therefore special. The concave ceiling allowed us to create a lower head height as you enter the space creating an intimate domestic scale that then opens up as you move towards the centre of the room. The curved soffit also enables light from the roof light to spill across its entire surface, filling the space with natural light. The stack effect created by this roof shape also allows for the spaces to be entirely naturally ventilated.

As part of the design process we ran story writing workshops with the students to develop a collective narrative for the woodland and identify how this gatehouse could interact with it and symbolise the connection between the two.

The woodland is a magical world of its own, separate from the world of the school and busy roads that surround it. Our design concept for the woodland classrooms was to encapsulate this feeling of being independent from the school within the building itself; and a sense of discovery in the details that allows the experience of being in and around the building to feel very much part of the woodland narrative.