Places & spaces: April 2021

Julian Owen explores some of the most eye-catching new campus developments in the UK and beyond

University of Exeter

This September will see the opening of a £25m student accommodation development in Exeter. Developed and operated by Study Inn Group, the 167-room property stands on the site of the former BBC studios in Walnut Gardens and mixes self-contained studios with shared serviced apartment bedrooms.

The studios are en suite and come with kitchenette, kitchen and bedroom “essentials”, and smart TV. Whether the NutriBullet blender and wine chiller populating the kitchen in the shared service rooms are deemed “essential” is unclear, though they’ll likely be welcome. More certainly, so will the private fridge/freezer, console games and smart TV in the lounge area, and the fact the rooms are also en suite.

Beyond the living areas, the development includes spa and fitness facilities, cinema room, private gardens, and 24/7 on-site management and pastoral care. Residents will also be able to avail themselves of a regular programme of social and virtual events.

Cambridge University

Planning permission has been granted for a new bar, café and dining room at St John’s College.

MCW’s design involves refurbishing the 16th-century Second Court building, and demolishing and rebuilding the 1970s-built buttery dining room.

Historic window openings will be altered to allow connection between dining room and café, while a long-lost vista – a victim of the current dining room – will be restored via the deconstruction and relocation of a pair of Grade I-listed 18th-century stone gate piers.

MCW say that their design results from a “fabric first” approach, and aims to “protect the integrity, stability and condition of historic fabric, minimising potential harm whilst providing a solution which supports the college’s commitment to energy efficiency and carbon reduction”.

“We have been able to reenergise this important part of the college, creating a sustainable and elegant meeting place for the whole college community,” said MCW’s project lead, Paula Mejia-Wright.

Aston University

Aston University’s campus redevelopment strategy has reached a major milestone, with the completion of a £1.7m science and engineering refurbishment.
Seddon Construction’s work ranged from full mechanical and electrical strip-outs and refits to demolition and rebuilds, and centred on concrete research labs, an engineering workshop and the new model shop.

The refurbishment and extension of a lit internal roadway was also concluded, helping ease the arrival and distribution of heavy deliveries.

“These vital refurbishments enhance the existing spaces for Aston University students and academics, making their learning and research space more accessible and better equipped for their needs,” said John Shannon, divisional director at Seddon.

“This project is part of the continued development of our engineering and physical sciences facilities to offer high-quality, modern research amenities for staff, and the best possible learning experience for our students,” said Professor Sarah Hainsworth, pro-vice-chancellor and executive dean of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

Kanagawa Institute of Technology

Copyright Kanagawa Institute of Technology and Junya Ishigami Associates

Sometimes language has nowhere left to go.

When words like ‘innovative’ and ‘groundbreaking’ are routinely applied to designs more deserving of ‘routine’ and ‘hackneyed’, what is left for the extraordinary likes of Junya Ishigami’s covered plaza at the Kanagawa Institute of Technology?

Spanning 90 metres, yet uninterrupted by visible structural supports, a vast roof covers a single, all-white open space gradually gaining five metres in height from one end to the other. The effect, as Ishigami intended, is of a landscape stretching towards a horizon line.

The ‘trick’ is a network of ribs, functioning like compression rings, reducing the tension exerted on the walls.

Fifty-nine rectangular roof openings allow light to flood in, while wind and rain can also enter, the latter instantly absorbed by permeable asphalt. Thus, the building allows students to be able to sit and socialise indoors while simultaneously enjoying the relaxation-inducing, ever-changing qualities of the natural environment.

You might also like: Places & spaces: March 2021

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