Ravensbourne college opens its doors in Greenwich

Ravensbourne College, Greenwich

Is the area around the Dome looking a bit busier today? It should do – it’s the first day of business for Ravensbourne college, which has spent the summer relocating from Chislehurst to its new, £70m home at the tip of the peninsula. This blog was lucky enough to get a tour from the college’s director, Professor Robin Baker, as his staff geared up to accept 1,400 students – ranging from pre-degree learners to undergraduates and postgraduates.

More significantly for Greenwich, today looks like being the day the area immediately around the Dome stopped being a bleak, windswept, lonely corner and started to gain some life.

Contracts have been signed for cafes to open on Peninsula Square, and there’ll be a bit of life around there during the day now, instead of the O2’s security guards and their dogs. By next spring, it’ll be radically different around there. This can only be a good thing…

Ravensbourne College, Greenwich

The impressive exterior – the pattern is a mathematical formula based on “non-periodic tesselation” , where the windows are tiles left out – bucks the trend for contemporary buildings to show off their interiors to the public. “It’s camouflaged, it’s challenges you,” Professor Baker explained. “You can’t look in and see what’s going on.”

Ravensbourne College, Greenwich
Ravensbourne College, Greenwich

Inside are 9 floors and vast open spaces, where students will follow courses encompassing design, broadcasting, fashion, architecture, animation and music production. No rabbit warrens of classrooms, computer rooms and lecture theatres – unlike the exterior, most of the interior is open. It’s almost like a cutting-edge, modern business centre, which isn’t an accident.

Most students will have their own laptops, there’ll be a clean-desk policy, but the building will be open 16 hours a day – with teaching taking place across just six of those. Professor Baker says he’ll have one big message for today’s new students. “We try to treat students as professionals. We’ll say to them, ‘this is the first day of your career’.” One aspect of the new site is what isn’t there – there’s no metalwork and woodwork facilities here, with them either being provided elsewhere or students being encouraged to find their own. It’s “all about using London as a resource,” Prof Baker says – something that wasn’t easy in Chislehurst.

One thing that did strike me as a little odd – their student union bar will be, effectively, one floor of the American Bar at the O2. Granted, they’ll offer a discount, but I’m not sure I’d like to have to walk through a security cordon every time I fancied a cheap beer.

Ravensbourne College, Greenwich
Ravensbourne College, Greenwich

What is provided, though, is state of the art. What’s thought to be the most advanced high-definition television facilities in the country sit alongside a recording studio paid for by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. When Led Zeppelin played the O2, they turned to Harvey Goldsmith and said, ‘we want to give something back.” The cash is also going towards a course, designed to create entrepreneurs in the music industry. Fibre-optic links connect Ravensbourne with the O2 and the data network being created to support the Olympics. But easily the most impressive thing in the workshops was a 3D scanner, which you could use to create a virtual version of anything – a toy car, or your body.

Ravensbourne College, Greenwich
Ravensbourne College, Greenwich

What does Ravensbourne’s arrival mean for its neighbours? Pre-degree courses already mainly attract students from the boroughs of Greenwich and Lewisham, and Greenwich Council is backing the Greenwich Digital Skills Centre, offering courses for all ages. In the long term, the council wants to see the peninsula become a “digital destination”, and has two floors in nearby Mitre Passage as a “digital enterprise centre” for businesses to showcase what they can do.

But it’s Ravensbourne that’s playing a pivotal role here, providing a role incubating start-up businesses and giving them a space to get going. There’s a track record of success here – one student recently signed a £280,000 contract with Sony to develop a game. There’ll be 40 based in the new building, although only 15 are expected to survive – but those that do will be given help in finding cheap locations in which to base themselves. I hope that the benefits of this will be felt further into Greenwich – it’d be unfortunate if all this new activity was isolated up on the peninsula, and with nearby Deptford having a pedigree for nurturing creative businesses, something special could be created in Greenwich, if the will is there.

Indeed, with Ravensbourne joining Trinity College of Music in Greenwich, Laban in Deptford and Goldsmiths in New Cross, it adds to an interesting little belt of creativity in this bit of SE London.

So that’s your quick tour of Greenwich’s newest arrival. Thanks to Ravensbourne for inviting me up there, and if you want to take a sly peek at it, their ground floor cafe is open to the public. At last, an alternative to Starbucks on the peninsula!


  1. What kind of ‘camouflage’ exactly is the exterior meant to be? Please supply the prof with a dictionary.

    Interesting report though, and thanks for the tour.

  2. A really interesting tour.
    I was being served recently by a ‘genius’ at the Apple store, Bluewater.
    She was one of the students who is to be continuing her studies at the new site on the peninsular.
    Much as she was excited by the move, she was less impressed by the thought of having to pay what would be a fortune to her, merely to park her car each day.
    Back at Chislehurst all the students, who often came up from the Medway areas, all parked for free.

  3. Thoughts? Public transport?

    Looks great and will definitely be a big improvement for the peninsula which at the moment seems a bit isolated.

  4. Marco – that’s an interesting point. The jubilee will finally get the extra capacity but that’s no use for student’s from Medway. I suppose the trains the only option but I do wonder how long the north kent lines can withstand increasing usage. The aborted 12 car upgrades from years ago will have to happen reasonably soon surely?

  5. The move from Chislehurst to Greenwich has been planned for 7 years – it’ll hardly be a surprise to any student.

    There’s a perfectly good rail link to Stratford from the Medway Towns, and Ravensbourne’s 3 stops on the Jubilee Line from there.

  6. You mentioned that the businesses starting up in Ravensbourne might need to look for affordable space in the area. I thought it might be worth bringing to people’s attention this quietly developing intitiative that’s happening in one of the industrial estates near the Thames Barrier. There’s about 100 studio spaces for creative and craft businesses now being used with plans for double that number. There’s an open studios weekend next month –

    It’s well worth a visit to see what can be achieved with a partnership between private and social enterprise, as well as doing some early Christmas shopping.

  7. DEAR SIR,




  8. Darryl – I remember seeing original masterplans for the buildings on peninsular square (ravensbourne and the tfl building) and in them they showed lovely green rooftop gardens to encourage wildlife – did you see any evidence of this when you were up on the roof? I cant see it from the ground and just wandered if they had included them in the finished buildings.

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