Durham gets catering revamp

Restaurant Design Associates (RDA) works with Durham University to design new catering areas within two of its residential colleges

Two of Durham University’s residential colleges, St Mary’s College, which was established in 1899, and Trevelyan College, founded in 1966, have had their catering facilities re-designed by South Tyneside-based RDA. 

The work marks the latest in a line of projects that RDA has undertaken since the university first engaged the firm’s services as design consultants in 2011, during the development of its college catering. This formed part of Durham University’s dynamic approach to improving facilities in the estate, in line with a structured investment programme across a number of years. 

Since its appointment, RDA has also designed new catering facilities for St Aidan’s College, which dates back to 1947, and the second oldest college on the estate – Hatfield College – a Grade II listed building which was founded in 1846. 

The college catering facilities are used by students, college guests and commercial guests for breakfast, lunch and dinner services. The number of diners can easily exceed 400 covers per service in each of the colleges, which also host a range of additional events such as formal banquets and buffets. 

The brief was to create a series of innovative designs that would satisfy the stringent requirements of each college and the overall aims of the University catering management team. This involved designing new kitchens, preparation areas, storage and production facilities and food serveries. 

RDA worked closely with Durham University’s Estates and Buildings department, lead architects and other specialists. Detailed drawing packs were produced by the firm to allow accurate construction and installation of each project, and the team produced full colour 3D photo-realistic visuals during the design phase to assist the decision-makers in choosing the most appropriate schemes. 

Several of RDA’s principal challenges involved space planning, and rationalising the standard and style of service across all of the university’s facilities. Existing spaces were often narrow and confined with limited equipment and often struggling to keep up with the throughput of students and other users.

Many of the proposed designs that RDA produced involved radically altering the spaces to create more open plan facilities and utilisation of cutting edge equipment, while being mindful of the historic nature of several of the colleges. 

RDA also developed close working relationships with the university catering management team, college principals, bursars and catering managers to identify and resolve design challenges, ensuring that the best possible outcome was achieved for each project. 

Paul Hirst, design director at RDA, said: “At the heart of our brief was the determination to satisfy the desire to provide services and facilities that were cutting edge and future –proofed.

“We were employed not only to create state of the art designs and to advise on all aspects of new technology, customer flows and dwell times, but also to create the look and feel of high quality catering establishments that would enhance the user experience. 

“Whilst the catering facilities adhere to the same high standard of rationalised equipment and facilities, the interior design aspect was carefully taken into consideration to ensure that each scheme had empathy with the age and history of each college. 

“At Durham, each college has its own identity and character, so we were keen to reflect that sense of individuality in our designs too.

“We’re now in the process of installing our design at St Mary’s College and we’re looking forward to seeing diners benefit from their new facilities within such a central, sociable hub of college life.”

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