Somerset College ESTEAM Centre

Exciting new ESTEAM Centre celebrates culture of dynamic school

Somerset College is a co-educational independent school in South Africa, located on a beautiful estate in the Winelands of the Western Cape.

Inspired by a lecture Michál gave on 21st-century school design, Somerset College commissioned us to undertake a masterplan and develop their concept for a cross-curricular learning space. The masterplan identified the best location for an exciting new ESTEAM Centre that accommodates Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths. In the words of the deputy head, Clare Searle, ‘The end product is a centre where teachers and learners will only be limited by their own imaginations.’

A double-height prototyping/testing space runs the length of the building, encouraging pupils to test their ideas and think big. Off this main space are rooms for coding and robotics, a makerspace, innovation and solution spaces, a reflection space, a physics lab, art rooms and offices. Glazed doors allow in light, give greater flexibility of use and create a sense of openness throughout the building, making the most of breath-taking views towards the mountains. It also means that pupils can see, be inspired by and celebrate each other’s ideas. Even the ones that didn’t go to plan.

The ESTEAM Centre sits prominently near the entrance, highlighting the school’s pioneering approach to learning and creating new links across the site. Native vines trail up the tension cables on the terrace to ground it in nature and provide shading, while the white walls and dark gable roofs are a contemporary response to the Cape Dutch aesthetic. Its robust materiality and pared-back design respond well to the climate and create an honest building, one that will be used creatively, boldly and in ways we hadn’t even imagined.

The project received a Special Commendation at the AIA UK Awards in 2021.


2021AIA UK Awards - Special Commendation


ClientSomerset College

CompletionMarch 2019

Area1525 m2

Executive architect2 AD Space Architects

QSDu Toit Pienaar Quantity Surveyors

M&E engineer & lightingWSP

LandscapeRoux Horticulture Services

Structural & civil engineerGéni Consulting

Thermal comfort, natural ventilation and daylight consultantGreenplan Consultants