Outstanding architectural beauty and educational facilities often go hand in hand. From cultural delights such as the magnificent Old Royal Naval College to modern schools and universities, architects and designers have always pushed the boundaries. In fact a third of the buildings on this year’s highly-coveted Stirling prize for Architecture are educational facilities.
Gresham College, Holborn
Sir Thomas Gresham founded the prestigious Gresham Collage in 1597 within the mid-13th century Barnard’s Inn Buildings in central London. The impressive red brick and stone façade was once part of Sir Adam de Basyng’s estate who was the former Lord Mayor of London. Barnard’s Inn features a vast hall and ornate reception room, as well as 18th century chambers. And if the name sounds familiar, it may be because Pip from Charles Dickens's epic novel ‘Great Expectations’ lodged within Barnard's Inn on his arrival in the capital. And today, Gresham’s hosts more than 140 free public lectures each year.
Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
Greenwich is steeped in maritime culture and at the heart is undoubtedly the exquisitely ornate Old Royal Naval College. The sprawling complex was designed by the most well-known of all English architects; Christopher Wren, who is also famed with restoring 52 London churches after the Great Fire of London, most notably the magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral. Constructed started on the Old Royal Naval College in 1696 in what was designed to serve as a hospital for retired and injured seamen (hence the maritime connection). However in 1873 it was converted as an educational facility for the Royal Navy staff. Curious visitors can wander the UNESCO listed building which has also featured in many films and TV shows, such as the Dark Knight Rises and The King’s Speech.
British Library, St Pancras
The ‘Brutalist’ design of the British Library building has divided opinion for many years. Brutalist designs favoured cement style structures with angular lines and stark grey walls a speciality between the 1950s and 1970s. Whatever your opinion, the UKs national library houses a phenomenal amount of research items, from books, journals, magazines, music, databases, maps, prints and so much more. Housed in St Pancras since 1997, the British Library is the largest of its kind in the world. Chances are if you choose to study in London, you’ll get to know the British Library inside out!
Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank
The Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s South Bank hosts daily music and dance performances covering jazz, classical and avant-garde styles. Opened in 1967, the QEH can seat up to 1,260 patrons in the concert hall. And once again this building divides opinion on its architectural merits – it’s another Brutalist building!
Senate House, Bloomsbury
One of the most beautiful and graceful buildings in London is the Art Deco style Senate House, aka the University of London. Nestled in the heart of Bloomsbury, it’s in great company, with the British Museum and School of Oriental and African Studies within close proximity. Completed in 1937, the handsome Senate House used to be the second tallest building in the capital, but has now been easily surpassed. And for a little bit of trivia; the building was utilised in World War II by the Ministry of Information which then inspired the ‘Ministry of Truth’ in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.