St Mary’s STEM Lab ‘Highly Commended’ in prestigious architecture award
A state-of-the-art STEM Lab at St Mary’s School in Cambridge has been ‘Highly Commended’ in the national AJ Retrofit Awards 2023, which took place on Tuesday 4th April. The dynamic learning space, designed by Cambridge-based Neubau Architecture, was officially opened last year and is equipped with everything students need to experiment, explore, design, test and perfect their STEM innovation ideas.
The renowned AJ Retrofit Awards, organised by The Architects’ Journal, celebrate the design expertise behind the vital renewal and repurposing of existing buildings. Only 124 projects were shortlisted nationally in the awards across various categories with St Mary’s STEM Lab securing ‘Highly Commended’ in the ‘School and Further Education’ category, which had eight applicants.
The Yingting Qian STEM Lab, situated within St Mary’s Junior School on Chaucer Road, began its life as a 1970s greenhouse, which previously housed wind tunnel testing facilities owned by Cambridge University’s Department of Architecture research arm. Neubau Architecture were tasked with transforming the existing greenhouse into a specialised STEM teaching space by re-using as much of the existing structure as possible. This included resurfacing the greenhouse to retain the character of the outbuilding, as well as preserving the concrete slab foundation and aluminium frame of the greenhouse. The fragile glass panels needed to be replaced with a polycarbonate façade system.
Charlotte Avery, Headmistress at St Mary’s School, said: “We are delighted that our ground-breaking STEM Lab has been ‘Highly Commended’ in one of the most prestigious architectural award schemes. From the conception of this project, we were keen to ensure that we used as much of our existing greenhouse as possible and Neubau Architecture did a fantastic job on this retrofit challenge. Sparking an interest in STEM subjects at a young age is vital if we want to encourage more women to pursue future careers in these areas and our girls are thoroughly enjoying the space created, getting hands-on with lots of innovative STEM experiments.”
Neubau Architecture cleverly designed the lab to function, in itself, as a STEM teaching instrument, with flooring that can be used for measuring length and width or plotting graphs on. The central roof truss also offers a place to hang items from the ceiling for gravity-related experiments and other instruments for measuring time, temperature and humidity each have their place within the lab.