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First look: Scott Brownrigg’s ultra-flexible Science Centre at Bedford Modern School

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The 2,600m² centre contains 17 teaching laboratories laid out around an entrance atrium and ’forum’, each designed to provide further freeform teaching spaces

The facilities that the new Science Centre provides drastically improve the school’s existing – and obsolete – science teaching facilities.

Having won the design competition in early 2013, Scott Brownrigg’s brief was to provide ’a modern, flexible design that would stimulate spontaneous working, encourage creativity and promote discussion’. 

To achieve this, they designed two banks of teaching laboratories which provide flexible classroom space and can be used as peripatetic teaching bases. The laboratories’ design is based on the recommendations made by Project Faraday, each having excellent natural light and being directly accessible from the internal circulation space. The simple parallel nature of these laboratories ensures that their intermediate walls can, if needed, be removed and repositioned, for extra flexibility. Each floor houses a dedicated home for the separate subjects: biology on the ground floor, chemistry on the first floor and physics on the second. Every subject is assigned three specialist labs equipped to A-Level teaching standards, with the remainder of the labs being designed to cater for more general ‘shared science’ teaching for the younger years.

The banks of laboratories are pulled apart around a triple-height central atrium space that provides a link between all three subjects and creates an area for informal teaching or group presentation, and forms a ‘heart’ to the Science Centre. 

This space consists of two parts. The main entrance atrium at the front provides a space both for group teaching but also for exhibitions, promoting sciences to the whole school. The second part, the ‘nucleus’, is a flexible forum and teaching space which acts as a freeform demonstration space – a kind of ‘theatre in the round’ tradition of Shakespeare’s Globe.  

Additional staff accommodation has also been provided, which includes office and workroom space. 



Source: Hundven Clements

Architects’ view

Designed to provide a modern, flexible design that stimulates spontaneous working, encourages creativity and promotes discussion, the new Science Centre uses a concept of parallel laboratory spaces which can be flexibly modified and reconfigured over time to suit the evolving needs of the school.

These laboratory spaces are based on recommendations made by Project Faraday, and their parallel nature ensures that intermediate walls can be removed and repositioned, ensuring excellent flexibility. All teaching set-up and servicing of these spaces is accommodated around the periphery, separate from the pupils; this allows the design to pull apart these lab spaces creating a central collaboration/forum space between them which forms a ‘nucleus’ to the Science Centre to be enjoyed by the students.

Ed Hayden, director, Scott Brownrigg

15422 BMS first floor stripped out B W 1 copy

15422 BMS first floor stripped out B W 1 copy

Source: Scott Brownrigg

First floor plan

Project data

Start on site January 2016
Completion May 2017
Gross internal floor area 2,674m²
Form of contract Traditional with quantities
Construction cost £6.5 million
Construction cost per m² £2,200 
Architect Scott Brownrigg
Client Harper Trust, Bedford Modern School
Structural and civil engineer Thomasons
M&E consultant RHB Partnership
Quantity surveyor Ridge & Partners
Project manager 3PM
Planning Phillips Planning Services
CDM coordinator ScottBrownrigg
Main contractor SDC Builders Ltd
Approved building inspector Local Authority Bedford Borough Council
CAD software used Revit

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