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A gateway to the magical: Studio Weave’s Belvue School Woodland Classrooms

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A timber-frame structure supporting a concave standing seam roof acts as a gatehouse to new woodlands


Belvue School is a secondary school for students with moderate to severe learning difficulties, and sits adjacent to a woodland over which the school has been given custody.

Following a process of fundraising, the school approached Studio Weave to design a series of extracurricular spaces, designed to have an intimate, domestic quality.

The new spaces include a sensory lounge, a ‘messy’ area and a kitchen, all of which aim to encourage students to adopt varying levels of responsibility and independence. 

Studio Weave has entered Belvue School into AJ Small Projects 2018 – you can see other entries to this year’s awards in the AJ Buildings Library.

17688 7686 17827 8865cdd2f2dbe7c10c7e2627b328b6c9

17688 7686 17827 8865cdd2f2dbe7c10c7e2627b328b6c9

Architect’s view

Our approach was to develop a collective narrative with students that would open up imaginative ways of engaging with this natural asset. The boundary between the playground and woods was identified as the border between familiar school territory and the magical, mysterious world beyond, with the new Woodland Classrooms acting as a gatehouse.

‘Cosy Lounge’ is used for workshops and engaging with the woodland, as well as being a calm, private, sensory space when required. ‘Sociable Kitchen’ includes a café, with food preparation area and group dining. ‘Messy Barn’ allows outdoor learning, whatever the weather. Through encouraging and inspiring students to adopt extra responsibilities and be more autonomous, the school nurtures their social, emotional and personal development, leading them towards employment opportunities.

The concave ceiling allowed us to create an intimate scale as you enter the space, which then opens up to clerestory windows as you move towards the centre of the room. The stack effect created by this form allows for the spaces to be entirely naturally ventilated. Studio Weave also worked with a forest management specialist to develop a biodiversity improvement strategy.

175 sw belvue 111 01 plan

Project data

Start on site September 2016
Completion October 2017
Gross internal floor area 93m²
Form of contract Traditional - Intermediate JCT contract
Construction cost £234,000
Architect Studio Weave
Client Belvue School

How to enter AJ Small Projects

  1. Head to the AJ Small Projects Awards website, register and pay your entry fee
  2. An email will then be sent to you with log in details for the AJ Buildings Library 
  3. Upload your project to the AJ Buildings Library. You will need to provide: 
  • A 150-300 word text describing your project
  • At least eight photographs, five drawings and one working detail to illustrate your project. NB Images should be high resolution and you must be able to give us third-party reproduction rights (for publication in the AJ, AJ Buildings Library and distribution to other publications to promote the awards)
  • Project details including name of practice, name of project, date of completion, total cost, gross internal floor area, client, structural engineer, services engineer, quantity surveyor, main contractor, and other subcontractors and suppliers


  • Entries must have been completed between 1 January 2016 and 31 December 2017
  • All entries must have a maximum total contract value of £250,000
  • Projects must not have had significant coverage in the architectural press (if your project has been covered elsewhere, please declare where)
  • Projects must be located in the UK or built by a UK-based practice abroad
  • All entries will be displayed in the AJ Buildings Library


2 February 2018

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Readers' comments (1)

  • IMHO these guys seem to have a handle on how to design a delightful timber building. Well Done!

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