Form, Space and Order

Concrete and brick are used to expressive effect at Ortus in London by Duggan Morris Architects


Jack Hobhouse

Designed by Duggan Morris Architects, Ortus, home of Maudsley Learning, is a 1550 square metre pavilion containing educational and event facilities, a cafe and exhibition spaces. Located within the Maudsley Hospital Campus in Camberwell, south London, the aim of the project is to raise knowledge and awareness of mental health and wellbeing. The area immediately surrounding the building contains some of the most important and best preserved streets of Georgian architecture in London.

In response to that context, the scheme is conceived as a freestanding pavilion, regular in both plan and volume. Its elevations are intended to refer to Georgian proportion, scale, hierarchy and materiality. A vertical grid of precast concrete fins articulates the contrasting materials of brick and glass, while floor slabs are expressed in the same material.

Internally, the project comprises a series of flexible, divisible spaces positioned around a central multi-functional tiered atrium, navigated by a grand open staircase. The floor plates ‘stagger’ across the section in half-storeys, creating a strong visual links between floors and enhancing the ethos of an immersive learning environment. The central space is key to the energy performance of the building, introducing natural light from a glazed roof into the heart of the plan. Automated glazed vents located throughout the envelope introduce cooling air as required at each level throughout day and night, feeding the central stack of the void.


External expression is derived from a regular pattern of brick panelling and full-height windows, framed by an external expression of the structure using vertical and horizontal fins of precast concrete. The Freshfield Lane brick, sourced 30 miles from the site, was chosen for its tone, colour, texture and variation, as well as its highly contextual relationship to the surrounding Georgian streets. It was blended at the brick works and bleeds from a London clay colour at ground level, to a grey sky colour at the upper levels.

Edging the brick panels in concrete banding and panelling is intended to communicate the structural strategy of the building. The stone-like appearance and colour of the concrete draws on the language of Georgian window reveals and stucco bands. Precast concrete was chosen for its surface quality, achieved by careful specification of the aggregate, sand-cement mixture, and detailing of the formwork. The horizontal and vertical banding articulates the internal structural frame and the staggered floor plate externally, communicating the connectivity and transparency throughout the internal spaces.


Full-height windows are set within the precast concrete frame. Flush-bonded glazing conceals the small steel section frames on the fixed elements, providing clear sight lines and allowing the external frame to be clearly read. Opening windows are also limited to a small steel profile. They function both automatically and manually, allowing connection to the intelligent BMS system for carbon dioxide and temperature control, or manual override by building users.


Structurally, the project comprises a fully in-situ concrete frame, with internal spans that keep the slab depth as efficient as possible. The internal frame was cast as special finish in-situ, allowing both floor plates and more complex areas around the staircase to be cast in a single pour for consistency of colour and finish.

Following much research, a 50 per cent GGBS (ground granulated blast furnace slag) content mix and paper-faced plywood shuttering boards were selected. This not only maximises the material’s environmental credentials, but also provides a bright and soft finish.


The frame is exposed throughout, with the floor slab soffits detailed as carefully choreographed ribbed units, increasing the available surface area and therefore thermal mass of the building. The acoustic performance of the spaces is improved by concealed acoustic panelling placed into the rib recesses. The bespoke panels are fabric-lined and also conceal a quantity of sophisticated AV technology. Electrical services are cast into the frame, feeding the recesses from the raised access floors above.

The brick skin and concrete frame are articulated by oak joinery items placed between the structure and intended to be read as furniture. Felt curtains line the external walls, allowing a degree of acoustic and blackout control. All metalwork including windows, rooflight, balustrade, bespoke light fittings and furniture are painted in RAL 7044 – a close match to the concrete.

Download Drawings


Duggan Morris Architects
Elliot Wood Partnership
Skelly & Couch
Maudsley Charity

Freshfield Lane
Steel windows
Knauf Insulation
Polished concrete flooring


Explore more