Iconic higher education design: The Spark Building, Southampton Solent University

The stunning Spark Building, completed by Scott Brownrigg, was designed to be an academic hub and showcase for excellence in learning

Perhaps one of the the most iconic HE buildings ever? 

The Spark Building at Southampton Solent University, completed in 2016 by global architectural practice Scott Brownrigg, was conceived as an academic hub and showcase for excellence in learning, teaching, research, innovation and student achievement.

The £33m building is a game-changer for the university, offering 10,000m2 of BREEAM-rated ‘Excellent’ space that promotes interdisciplinary activity and collaboration, enabling staff and students to see and share their learning and teaching experiences, knowledge and research.

The building interfaces with the Sir John Everett Millais Building on East Park Terrace and provides a ‘mixed economy’ of teaching and learning spaces to enhance the centrally timetabled general teaching accommodation on the university’s city centre campus.

Facilities also include a café and conference centre, enabling increased university engagement with businesses and communities at local, regional and national level.

The Pod ‘welcomes’ students, staff and visitors to ‘The Spark’ and has an open breakout area with commanding views over the atrium

Utilising the existing topography of the site, two large destination lecture theatres (including a Harvard-style lecture theatre) are located below the main atrium level.

Accommodation is arranged over five storeys around an impressive, full-height atrium space with a stunning ‘Solent Red’ pod at its centre and a high definition digital media wall at the far eastern end.

Unifying the old with the new

The Pod ‘welcomes’ students, staff and visitors to ‘The Spark’ and has a curvilinear lecture space at its heart and an open breakout area on top with commanding views over the atrium/East Park. Like the university, this sculptural element is distinctive, bold, ambitious and innovative. The atrium unifies the new and existing while providing a major arrival space, social learning areas and a venue for large events, including presentations, graduation ceremonies, gala dinners, exhibitions and fashion shows.

The atrium is also fundamental to the circulation, ventilation and temperature control strategies.

‘The Spark’ is technology-rich and incorporates high-specification mobile and fixed technologies, high-capacity wireless, as well as wired networks. It supports contemporary initiatives, including BYOD (bring your owndevice), the growth of the VLE (virtual learning environment) and the ‘flipped classroom’.

Overall, the design of ‘The Spark’ simultaneously conveys a sense of permanence, dynamism, openness and transparency.

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