Design Engine Stowe School Design Technology Engineering Building External View Visualisation Hero

Design Technology & Engineering Building

Stowe, Buckinghamshire
Stowe School
On Site

A creative hub that introduces students to modern design and manufacturing skills and supports the other STEM subjects of science and mathematics

Stowe School has been based since its founding in 1923 in the historically recognised Stowe House site, formerly the seat of the Dukes of Buckingham and Chandos.

Following an invited design competition, Design Engine was subsequently commissioned to
develop designs for the new Design Technology & Engineering building for Stowe School to
replace existing facilities.

The school strongly believes that Design Technology should be considered a STEM subject offering pupils valuable practical skills as they move from theory to manufacturing. Stowe has established itself as the country’s leading school for Robotics and this new facility will embrace developing technology in Mechatronics, Computer Aided Design, Computer Aided Manufacturing, Computer Aided Engineering, 3D printing and other cutting-edge technology.

Design Engine Stowe School Design Technology Engineering Building External View Visualisation

The Site

Design Team

project manager:

structural engineer:
Buro Happold

quantity surveyor:

landscape consultant:
Quartet Design

Design Engine Architects

planning consultant:

The unique nature of the school campus, sitting within the grounds of Stowe House (and occupying the house itself) demanded a rigorous approach to the setting of the new building.  The initial stages of the project, therefore, involved an in-depth analysis of the campus as a whole in order to explore all options for the location of the new facility. 

The brief asked for a new stand-alone building that would replace the outdated facilities, to house state-of-the-art workshops that would embrace developing thinking in all areas of design, technology and engineering.

Design Engine Stowe School Design Technology Engineering Building Site Context Model
Site context model

Embodied carbon and designing for circularity

We have been working closely with engineers Buro Happold to explore how the building can serve as an educational tool, to illustrate how different materials are employed as structure and fabric. The interior of the building will be developed to reveal how materials are connected, and how spaces are serviced. We hope the building will fuse the act of drawing and making, helping to inspire a new generation of creative individuals and problem-solvers.David Gausden | Director of Design Engine

Consideration of how the building is made has led the team to explore two key threads: structural embodied carbon and the whole project life cycle (including deconstruction).

Consequently, the project utilises an all-timber glue-lam and CLT design for the superstructure, an approach that will significantly reduce embodied carbon in construction. The timber will be left largely exposed to act as a teaching tool while also reducing additional follow-on trades and materials. 

The substructure uses precast concrete planks on ground beams and driven piles. The design was optimised to minimise material use and to facilitate simple deconstruction should the building ever need to be repurposed, or the site restored to landscape in the future.

Design Engine Stowe School Design Technology Engineering Building External View Axonometric Visualisation Levels 1

Building materiality

The Design Technology & Engineering Centre at Stowe is unashamedly modernist, but follows classical principles; it is bold and innovative, but sits discreetly in the sylvan landscape. The architects of Design Engine are following in the footsteps of Adam, Kent, Borra, Soane and Gibbs. I am confident that Design Engine will produce a superb building which will in turn take its place among the architectural wonders of Stowe.Dr Anthony Wallersteiner | Head, Stowe School

The materiality of the building will contribute greatly to its relationship with its historic architectural and landscape context. Stowe School also wanted to explore how the building could work as an educational tool, expressing how different materials are employed in contemporary architecture.

To assist with the proportions of the building and its sense of repose in the landscape we have introduced a horizontal split in the elevation establishing a low-level and high-level material. This has the effect of reducing the overall visual mass of the elevations within the woodland. The proposed bronze-coloured material for the upper level will tonally complement the woodland setting but will also maintain a low sheen and reflection.

By manipulating contrasting tones of material on different planes we have been able to introduce depth and pattern to the elevation. Brickwork is proposed for the low-level area. The brickwork colour and texture are intended to have parity with adjacent brick buildings. Architecturally, this creates a ‘monolithic’ base on which the more ‘open’ upper facades appear to sit, echoing the traditional and Classical forms of Stowe House.

We have been anxious to make connections with the historic estate through materiality but also through geometry. Many of the buildings and follies on the estate take their architectural proportioning from classical design principles. As part of the creative narrative behind the building and as a proportioning system we have adopted the golden ratio (Golden section) to compose the colonnade elevation.

The building will play a central role in ensuring the continuing success of Stowe School as an outstanding centre for Product Design and Robotics in the UK. 

Design Engine Stowe School Design Technology Engineering Building External View Visualisation Golden Section
Design Engine Stowe School Design Technology Engineering Building External View Visualisation In Context