Bournemouth Art Studio 06
© Valerie Bennett
Bournemouth Art Studio 05
© Valerie Bennett
Bournemouth Art Studio 07
© Valerie Bennett
Bournemouth Art Studio 02
© Valerie Bennett
Bournemouth Art Studio 03
© Valerie Bennett
Bournemouth Art Studio 04
© Valerie Bennett

Drawing Studio

In recent years, the Arts University of Bournemouth has seen significant development as they aim to improve the university for their nearly 3,000 students. To continue with their expansion, the client requested a new single-storey drawing studio be designed for an undeveloped site on their campus.

The structure is composed of a thin steel shell, constructed by specialist steel fabricator, CIG, like the hull of a ship, creating a single smooth, monocoque surface. This consists of an 8 mm double-curved external plate, stiffened by thin internal welded steel rib-plates, creating a 16 m span column-free space.

The monocoque construction was pre-fabricated in large panels, bolted and welded on site so that the wall and roof transitions as one seamless piece. The surface has five openings of different size and shape, creating different conditions of light within the same space, and is coloured with a semi-glossy coating to protect the structure from the environment.

Bespoke software tools were developed to model the surface, allowing control over the geometry of the outer form and pattern of its internal ribs. This allowed reduction of plate thickness to a minimum through detailed non-linear plate buckling analysis and optimisation of the external curved plate patterning to reduce waste and facilitate fabrication.

The spread of the loads along the perimeter of the shell allowed for the use of shallow concrete foundations. These consisted of strip foundations beneath the entirety of the perimeter wall and a ground-bearing slab to form the studio floor. Two access ramps were produced from either paved made-ground or with a reinforced concrete slab in which the foundations for handrail posts can be integrated into the slab.

Steel monocoque shell structure for a drawing studio at an expanding university

Bournemouth, UK

Arts University Bournemouth

Cook Robotham Architectural Bureau (CRAB)

£ 1.8 million



  • 2017 Civic Trust Award - National Winner
  • 2016 RIBA Regional Award
  • 2016 RIBA National Award