New student hub for Queen’s

Construction work is now complete on the £1.4 million student hub and auditorium at Queen’s University Belfast

Burwell Deakins Architects has completed the David Keir student hub and auditorium at Queen’s University Belfast, which was recently shortlisted for both a WAN Education Award and RIBA Northern Ireland Award. 

The project involves the creation of a new pavilion at the heart of the university and the refurbishment of an adjacent lecture theatre. Together they form an active set of collaborative spaces, supporting different modes of teaching and learning and acting as a catalyst for new pedagogic structures. 

Ciaran Gallagher, President of the Queen’s University Belfast Student Union, said: “The new student hub in the David Keir courtyard brings a welcome contrast to the rest of the campus with its contemporary appearance and features. The building provides a social setting for students at the heart of a complex that was desperately lacking a dedicated communal space, and the new lecture theatres will radically enhance the ability of students to work collaboratively during teaching hours.” 

Located in the existing David Keir Building’s main courtyard, the 250sqm (approx.) Corten steel clad pavilion echoes the colour of the existing brickwork and the city’s tradition of shipbuilding, whilst meeting the university’s request for a dynamic building form to be achieved using ‘everyday’ building technology. 

The steep rake of the existing lecture theatre has been organised to provide a series of terraces, upon which Burwell Deakins’ award-winning ‘Connect’ seating system has been installed, allowing lecturers to move between didactic and collaborative learning modes, without having to move students or furniture. 

These new teaching and learning spaces are linked to the building’s existing circulation route, drawing on a steady flow of movement to facilitate the exchange of knowledge. Internal windows enhance visual connections and encourage students to make use of teaching spaces for collaborative study when they are not in use.  This extends the range of learning spaces available within the adjacent new student hub whilst improving the use profile of the auditorium. 

Roland Carson, Head of Estates Planning at Queen’s University Belfast, said: ‘The location of the David Keir hub in the central courtyard offers both a prominent facility and one that is accessible from all areas of the building. The pavilion design, with its various levels, and the extensive use of glass and Corten steel makes a strong statement against the formal brick and stone of the existing building. It creates spaces both internal and external which have immediately become popular spaces for students and staff delivering on the most important criterion for the success of the design – to provide a space where students wish to be.’

Images ©Christopher Heaney

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