New English school for students with learning disabilities incorporates its woodland setting into the design

Studio Weave designed the school.

May 01, 2018 |
Belvue woodlands classrooms at night

Courtesy of Belvue School

Portals to other worlds typically come in inconspicuous packages: closets, cupboards, overgrown gates, or train station lockers. The key is making the ordinary become extraordinary, and that is how Studio Weave approached the Belvue School’s new woodlands classrooms project.

Belvue School, a secondary school in Northolt, England for boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 19 with moderate to severe learning difficulties, enlisted the help of Studio Weave to design the unique classroom facility that sits adjacent to a woodland. The facility is separate from the main school building and incorporates the woodland into the design.


Belvue School new woodlands classroomCourtesy of Belvue School.


The classrooms needed to provide two distinct types of learning environments: a calm, informal teaching space, and a separate space for a student-run school café. The boundary between the playground and the woods creates a threshold of sorts that symbolizes the entrance to another world. The design team referenced the gate to the secret garden and the cupboard to Narnia and the woodland classrooms were designed to act as a gatehouse between our world and one beyond.

Story writing workshops with the students were used in the design process to create a collective narrative for the woodland and to identify how the gatehouse could interact with it.


Concave roof in Belvue Woodlands ClassroomsCourtesy of Belvue School.


The new facility features amenities like the “Cosy Lounge,” a space designed to be used for teaching and engaging with the woodland. It offers a connection to wildlife that many students don’t otherwise have access to. Another feature, the “Sociable Kitchen,” includes a café with a food preparation area and dining for small groups of staff and students.


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The building’s concave roofs create a more intimate scale upon entering the classrooms that opens up as one moves towards the center. The curved soffit enables light from the roof light to spill across the entire surface and naturally light the room. The stack effect created by the roof allows for the spaces to be entirely naturally ventilated.


Belvue school's woodlands classroomsCourtesy of Belvue School.


Belvue Woodlands classroom cafeCourtesy of Belvue School.

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