Places & spaces: February 2021

Julian Owen rounds up the most striking and significant new construction developments on UK campuses

Main image: The University of Plymouth’s new engineering and design facility – aerial view (Credit University of Plymouth)

University of Plymouth

Conditional planning approval has been given for BAM Construction to carry out the next stage of the University of Plymouth’s £100m campus masterplan: the major refurbishment – including a new-build component – of the 1979-built, five-storey Babbage Building.


FCB Studios’ design will offer more than 10,000m² of research and teaching space, incorporating a sustainable new home for the School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics, together with additional space for the School of Art, Design and Architecture.


“Our plans take the building back to the original concrete frame – a characterful waffle-slab construction – that will be revealed by stripping out suspended ceilings and overhead services to create open and well-lit spaces to promote creativity, cross-disciplinary collaboration and wellbeing,” said FCB associate, Colin Cobb.


“The design has incorporated a range of complex and ambitious technical facilities, which will provide engineering and design students with the experience and skills they need to design our future.”


Staffordshire University

Work is set to commence on a new woodland nursery and forest school for Staffordshire University.


Due to welcome its first intake next year, the £4.4m facility is located close to the university’s nature reserve and will create 100 nursery places for the children of students, staff, and local residents.


The forest school, meanwhile, will offer outdoor fun – identifying nature, play-based learning, den building, forest art, etc – to youngsters aged between three and seven.


The build also includes four learning spaces, food preparation and wet play areas, plus capacity for a 24-place classroom.


A digitally augmented observation suite means that teaching can be overseen, allowing applied learning for trainee teachers, social workers, special educational needs coordinators and university students.


Constructed by Henry Brothers Midlands, the development is expected to become the university’s first net-zero carbon facility, with FCB Studios’ design utilising passive and highly efficient technologies for heating, cooling and ventilation.


University of Worcester

An application has been made to transform a brutalist Worcester landmark into a cutting-edge centre for teaching health and medical education.


Since the university acquired the former Worcester News building in 2019, Glancy Nicholls Architects have drawn up plans for a building flooded with natural light, including a state-of-the art anatomy laboratory, GP simulation rooms, café, break-out spaces, and general seminar and teaching rooms.


Boasting the kind of eco-friendly design and features befitting the 2019 Green Gown Awards’ sustainability institution of the year, it is hoped that the facility will follow another of the university’s conversions – the Art House, originally a 1930s car showroom – in claiming a RICS SKA Gold, the highest environmental standard for refurbished buildings.


University vice-chancellor, Professor David Green, said that the project “will bring much-needed jobs and prosperity to the city, creating hundreds of new opportunities to gain a first-class education and vital professional qualifications”.


University of Oxford

Oxford-based construction firm Beard is set to begin work on a riverside building offering accommodation for students at the city’s Pembroke College.


“Beard is a local company which understands the local community and we are delighted to be working with them,” said the college’s home bursar, Mike Naworynsky, director of the £10m venture.


Slated to open in summer 2022, the project will see an “underutilised” communal building demolished and replaced by a block consisting of more than 80 single-occupancy bedrooms, a common room, eight studio rooms, and a landscaped quad opening up to a lower terrace and amphitheatre lawn. There will also be a smaller gathering of studio flats elsewhere on the same site.


Conceived by Camden-hailing MICA Architects, the development will significantly increase the college’s provision of accommodation for its graduate students. “The current site will be revitalised by the excellent design,” said college master, Sir Ernest Ryder.



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