Flagship ‘Living Laboratory’ for Newcastle

Hawkins\Brown wins planning for £58 million Urban Sciences building at Newcastle University

HawkinsBrown’s proposed design for a new £58 million Urban Sciences Building for Newcastle University has won planning consent. The 12,500sqm building will be the flagship development on the 24-acre Science Central site, the former home of Scottish & Newcastle Brewery in the centre of the city.

Housing the University’s world-class school of computing science, the building is conceived as a ‘Living Laboratory’ that will put the University at the forefront of urban innovation. Equipped with a public performance space and a decision theatre for the visualisation and interpretation of urban data, the building organises a variety of high quality teaching and research spaces around a central forum designed to welcome students, industry partners, staff and the public to the building to share ideas and work collaboratively. 

Ewan Graham, associate at HawkinsBrown, said: “The University has committed to building a fantastic new teaching and research facility on Science Central. The University’s brief deliberately targeted themes of urban renewal, civic engagement and climate change; the Urban Sciences Building will challenge staff, students, visitors and members of the public to think more collaboratively about the urban condition within which they live, work and play.”

Professor John Fitzgerald, Director of Research in Computing Science at Newcastle University, who is leading the Cyber-Physical Laboratory at Science Central said: “This is exciting news for Newcastle University, the city and the North East region as the design for the building is unique not only in Newcastle but the world. We’re proud of the confidence that this decision shows in the future of computing in Newcastle and the North East. We’re still pioneering, and looking forward to training the next generations of digital technologists in the heart of our city.”

Leader of Newcastle City Council, Cllr Nick Forbes, said: “The Urban Sciences Building is yet another example of an investment in our future, and a milestone in the development of Science Central – fast becoming the most exciting place in the country for innovative research.

“It’s critically important to the region’s success that we diversify our economy to make it resilient in an uncertain world, and this building will help do that by creating the next generation of high quality jobs.”

The Urban Sciences Building will be home to around 1,500 staff and students and will bring together a range of research disciplines under the banner of digitally enabled urban sustainability. Teaching and research are also at the heart of the design and in addition to the public spaces the building will provide:

  • An unique Cyber-Physical Laboratory, dedicated to understanding the complex interaction between technology and society and reducing vulnerability to cyber-attack and software failure
  • An Urban Observatory and Decision Theatre, allowing real time data from the city of Newcastle to be analysed and explored to improve academics’ understanding of the interaction between the city’s energy, water, transport, waste and digital control systems
  • The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Cloud Computing for Big Data, training a new generation of experts who will extract useful information from the vast amounts of data now being collected from sensors, people and computer applications. Big data research projects with multi-billion dollar industry partners Red Hat and Microsoft will also be based there, and a Cloud Innovation Centre will enable regional businesses and the public sector to better exploit the opportunities created by cloud computing and big data
  • The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Civics, to explore how digital technologies can be used to promote public participation in the design and delivery of local services like education, public health and city planning

As a centre for urban sustainability research, the building is designed to be highly sustainable itself. A rooftop wild-flower meadow is planned for the building, providing pleasant outdoor working space as well as promoting local biodiversity. The design prepares the building to connect to Science Central’s future district heating infrastructure and integrates with an increased sustainable urban drainage system for the wider masterplan.


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