Exciting new ESTEAM Centre celebrates culture of dynamic school
Somerset College is a co-educational independent school in South Africa, located on a beautiful and expansive estate in the Winelands of the Western Cape.
Following a lecture by Michál Cohen on 21st-century school design, Walters & Cohen was approached by the school to undertake a masterplan, with particular focus on pre-prep, theatre, boarding and sports facilities.
It became clear that new accommodation for ESTEAM subjects - Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths - was a priority for the school. The new two-storey Innovation Centre co-locates these subjects to inspire innovative and interdisciplinary study. The building is designed to feel very open and welcoming, a place where learning is observed and celebrated. The entrance leads directly into a large, double-height space for testing ideas and making prototypes. State-of-the-art resources include a 3D printer and a wind tunnel, and more traditional resources, such as sewing machines and laser cutters, provide pupils with the tools to experiment, test ideas and think creatively.
Quiet learning spaces on the ground and first floor are for thinking, inventing and problem solving, and include an innovation space, robotics, art theory, physics, a presentation area, quiet research and an entrepreneurial space. 'Solutions spaces' and science areas are divided between theoretical and practical work, and all rooms offer flexible layouts.
The gabled roof creates a generous volume, and accommodates skylights to naturally light the spaces as well as PVs to harvest solar energy. The building makes use of a level change to create an outdoor amphitheatre stair. The treatment of external elevations reflects local architecture and makes the most of the climate: external learning terraces are protected from the sun by green vines – native to the Winelands – trained up tension cables on the western elevation. The colour of the gabled roof and white walls match existing buildings.
The Innovation Centre sits prominently near the entrance of the College, welcoming visitors on arrival and celebrating the importance of creativity and critical thinking at the school.
We took the project to planning and then handed over to a local practice, 2 AD Space Architects, to deliver the project, after which our role was as a critical friend to the client.
Photos coming shortly.
Executive architect2 AD Space Architects
Culture & Community
Walters & Cohen Architects
2 Wilkin Street
London NW5 3NL
020 7428 9751