Marlowe Academy


Marlowe Academy

Project Info

The ‘heart space’ is a key element of the Marlowe Academy gridshell. The doubly curved timber gridshell roof that unites all the internal spaces is a section of a toroid that provides a structurally efficient and elegant enclosure to the column free space below.

The gridshell springs from the proscenium arch above the stage at the heart of the academy and leaps the central space in a single 28 meter bound to the roof of the teaching faculty at the perimeter of the central space.

The 300mm deep ribs are formed from 75m thick laminated veneer lumber and are a maximum of three meters long between nodes. The nodes are steel rings with pre-drilled holes and connect to the ribs via inclined countersunk bolts. The roof deck itself is also formed from laminated veneer lumber that is used as a stressed skin where the forces within the shell require it. Gordon Cowley of Cowley Timberwork developed the method of connecting the ribs.

The depth of the ribs is minimised by the shell action and this was used to demonstrate that the use of a timber gridshell was a cost effective alternative to a traditional steel roof with internal supports and added the value to the academy of a column free space below.  The self-finishing nature of timber further added to this added value as no ceiling or cladding to the structure was required.

The gently inclined glulam roof structure to the sports hall blends seamlessly into the highpoint of the gridshell. In addition simple timber glulam roofs enclose the links between curved teaching spaces and ports and performance halls.


ArchitectBuilding Design Partnership

Structural EngineerBuilding Design Partnership

ContractorWates Construction

SpeciesKerto LVL, Spruce

ClientSaga Group & DFES

JoineryCowley Timberwork/ECC Timber Engineering