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dRMM x Gordon Cowley and Atelier van Lieshout at Kingsdale School

Useful art at Kingsdale School


We had the pleasure of working with two great artists at Kingsdale School; Cowley Structural Timberworks on the timber geodesic auditorium and Atelier van Lieshout on the wonderfully expressive air handling ducts.

Cowley Structural Timberworks

Having just completed the timber reading rooms at Peckham Library, Gordon Cowley was the perfect choice to fabricate our timber geodesic auditorium at Kingsdale School.

The design was not a perfect sphere but more of a deflated football, with an asymmetric form. Cowley’s suggestion to achieve this was for plywood panels in a frame of timber pencils connected by omni-directional nodes. These were cast in steel at the bottom but alloy at the top where there was less load. Cowleys were willing to take on and manage risk responsibly rather than shying away from the experimental. Their skill and ‘can-do’ attitude made the project a joy, and the resulting auditorium is a manifestation of this.

Model of the auditorium
Model of the auditorium
Omni-directional nodes
Omni-directional nodes
Timber 'pencils'
Timber 'pencils'

Atelier van Lieshout

When we were designing Kingsdale School, we received a grant from the RSA to fund architecture collaborations with artists. Atelier van Lieshout immediately came to mind to contribute to the auditorium as Alex had previously visited their incredible studio in Rotterdam. However, we were surprised when Joep van Lieshout was adamant that the auditorium should be a gold pyramid rather than our timber geodesic. Alex and Joep had a Dutch standoff, and Alex won. Joep came back with a completely unexpected proposal to do the air handling duct for the auditorium, which would also support the lighting. The so-called ‘cannon’ enables the interior of the auditorium to be free from galvanised ducts and surface mounted lighting, whilst a winch enables the cannon to be lowered to ground for access. We love it for being a piece of useful art, the best kind.

Air ducts in the auditorium
Air ducts in the auditorium

dRMM x Gordon Cowley and Atelier van Lieshout at Kingsdale School

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dRMM x Gordon Cowley and Atelier van Lieshout at Kingsdale School

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