Ortus, Home of Maudsley Learning, South London

  • Value: £4,600,000
  • Client: Maudsley Charity
  • Status: Complete

ORTUS, The Home of Maudsley Learning, was completed in Summer 2014. The scheme, which is situated on the Maudsley Hospital Campus in Denmark Hill is for client Maudsley Charity. A charitable foundation which invests in projects to support world class mental health and well being, support, training and development. The project has been informed and developed through an 18 month immersion process involving research and building visits as well as extensive consultation with SLaM user groups, Kings College Hospital, the Institute of Psychiatry and community groups, with DMA commissioned to develop the client’s brief which was summarized through a series of ‘Vision Statements’.

The new 1,550sqm building is home to various teaching and learning facilities, cafe, exhibition and ancillary spaces. The central focus of this unique project, coined ‘Project Learning Potential’, is to create a totally immersive learning environment through networking, social media and Wi-Fi technologies such that each individual user can tune the learning process to his/her needs to obtain the maximum results.

In response to locally evident contextual influences the building has been conceived as a free standing pavilion, regular in both plan and volume. Thus the building is a simple rectilinear form, with elevations composed to compliment the Georgian principles of proportion, scale, hierarchy and materiality. As such, a 1200mm vertical grid, of precast concrete fins, articulates the contrasting materials of brick and glass, whilst floor slabs are expressed int he same material ensuring the stagger of the floor plates is abundantly clear to even the casual passer-by. Terraces at ground, inset balconies above, and a large roof terrace further articulate the simplicity of the building, whilst creating positive connections between internal spaces and the abundant landscape which sits in and around the project.

At ground level, the landscape is envisaged as a series of connected rooms, mirroring the internal configurations thus ensuring that learning activities can spill out in a controlled manner. A cafe at the ground floor of the New Learning Centre is intended as a marker near the building entrance, aiming to help destigmatise preconceptions of mental health and wellbeing, by making the building more accessible to the wider community, sharing with the campus a vision which includes doctors, nurses, teachers, service users and carers in promoting an integrated learning environment; ‘Learning for Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime’.

Spatially, the project is planned as a series of flexible, sub-dividable spaces positioned around a central void, navigated by a grand ‘open’ staircase. In cross-section, these floor plates ‘stagger’ across the central void by half a storey, thus the grouping of learning psaces appears to extend from the half landing of the open stair; the aim being to create a stronger visual link between floors enhancing the ethos of an immersive learning environment. The open staircase with its shortened connections across teh plan is intended to encourage a domestic scale circulation system set away from the lift core.

The central void also controls the environmental performance of the building, which is uniquely passive, by introducing abundant natural light from a glazed roof into the heart of the plan, feeding each floor plate. In turn automated glazed vents throughout the building envelope introduce cooling air as required at each level throughout day and night, feeding the central stack of the void.

Externally the building is articulated through a regular pattern of brick panelling and full height windows, framed by an external expression of the concrete frame, with vertical and horizontal fins fo pre-cast concrete. The brick has been chosen for its tone, colour, texture and variation, as well as its highly contextual relationship to the surrounding street of Georgian buildings. The brick colour selection is intended to bleed from London clay colour at ground level changing to a grey London sky colour at the upper levels. Brick is also highly sustainable gaining the BRE’s A+ rating for sustainability, with a high thermal mass, long life expectancy with low maintenance requirements.

Edging the brick panels in concrete banding and panelling is intended to communicate the structural strategy of the building, whilst the concrete will have a stone-like appearance and colour selected to draw upon the surrounding Georgian sympbolism of window reveals and stucco bands.

The boundary wall framing the garden to the front of the building is executed in a carefully selected red, referencing the Maudsley Hospital’s original buildings and those adjacent. In detail, this boundary wall is built in a special semi-open brick bond, where the perp ends of the bricks are pulled apart from each other to allow transparency to the garden. The voids created within this wall, are then expressed conceptually as loosely located reds mixed into the grey brick panelling of the building skin.

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