Places & spaces: March 2021

Julian Owen snoops around construction projects across UK campuses, from restorations to new builds

Aberystwyth University

Restoration has been completed on the historic Pantycelyn halls of residence. First opened in 1951, the transformed facility will offer modern en-suite accommodation for up to 200 students. Overseen by Morgan Sindall Construction, the £16.5m project also includes quiet study rooms with computer facilities, two meeting rooms, and four common rooms.

As befits the halls in which Prince Charles lived while learning the Welsh language ahead of his investiture as the Prince of Wales, Pantycelyn will house the Welsh language students’ union, Undeb Myfyrwyr Cymraeg Aberystwyth, and all the other Welsh language societies.

An Aberystwyth firm, LEB Construction, was contracted to carry out a wide variety of work on the project. “On such a high-profile project on a national asset, we needed a skilled team which could work to our high standards, respect tight deadlines and adapt to any challenges the projects unearthed,” said Dale Harris, project manager at Morgan Sindall Construction.


Manchester and London

Major student accommodation projects in Manchester and London have secured the funding required to ensure completion for the 2022/23 academic year. The £44m supplied by Barings “highlights the confidence in bringing forward major investment into the purpose-built student accommodation sector”, said David Campbell, MD of the projects’ developer, Alumno.

Sixty-two studio apartments – together with a communal area, rooftop terrace and office – will comprise the 1,449m² Manchester development, while the 4,600m² project at Bermondsey Spa Gardens will provide fully integrated facilities for 143 students, including a basement cinema lounge, study room and community area.
New artwork will be commissioned to enhance the builds on each site.

“Both London and Manchester are undersupplied markets supported by strong universities and a deep occupier demand,” said Darren Hutchinson, head of UK real estate transactions at Barings. “We are excited to work with Alumno to create well-designed, contemporary accommodation that will appeal to a wide range of students.”


University of Oxford

Planning permission has been given for the University of Oxford’s largest-ever construction project, a £200m life sciences building. Designed to complement the university’s historic architecture – utilising reconstituted stone, punched widows, projecting buttresses, etc – the 25,000m² development will provide research facilities for 800 students and 1,200 researchers. It is hoped that the new building will ‘transform the relationships between the psychological and biological sciences’ by boosting cross collaboration.

The Life and Mind Building marks the first stage of the Oxford University Development (OUD) partnership, which will see Legal & General offering up to £4bn of funding to deliver around 1,000 subsidised homes for rent by university and college staff, another 1,000 units of graduate student accommodation, plus an expansion of existing innovation facilities.

The life sciences building “will help retain talent in the city, whilst driving essential inward investment and providing opportunities for world-leading innovation,” said OUD chief executive, Anna Strongman.


University of Brighton

“Action!” has been called on a development to house University of Brighton screen and film school students. With planning permission in the can, work will start in the spring on three- and four-storey flats.

Greenaway Architecture’s movie-themed design will accommodate 60 students, together with recreational area, study space, a biodiverse rooftop garden, gym, café, retail space, and, naturally, a cinema. Completion is planned for summer 2022. A number of sustainability measures will be incorporated into the building, including solar panels, low-energy lighting and high-efficiency heating.

“Lewes Road is known as Brighton’s academic corridor, due to its strategic location near to a number of higher education establishments, including Brighton and Sussex Universities, making it the ideal site for a student residence,” said David Campbell, MD of the scheme’s developers, Alumno.

“[We] went through a thorough and lengthy consultation process with Brighton and Hove council in terms of the overall design, streetscape elevation treatment, layouts and amenities for the students.”


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