UCL unveils new student community spaces

University College London has unveiled the latest milestone projects within its Transforming UCL programme: Wilkins Terrace and Lower Refectory

Located at the heart of the Bloomsbury campus, these two new spaces provide amenity for the whole university community: outdoor events space, a new refectory and east-west pedestrian link across the main campus.

Delivered by UCL Estates and designed by Levitt Bernstein and Burwell Deakins respectively, these spaces deliver classic, historically sensitive architecture and innovative user-led design to provide quality new student space on campus. 

Wilkins Terrace provides a unique and high-quality space hidden within UCL’s urban estate, comprising both generous public realm and striking built form. Created by enclosing an existing service yard, the new space is conceived as an accessible, stone paved, split level terrace, with the lower level serving the Lower Refectory.

The terrace is sculpturally carved out of Portland stone, a sustainable and durable material that also makes up UCL’s Grade I listed Wilkins Building. A new ‘fourth façade’ completes the composition, working in harmony with the surrounding buildings. Designed to classical proportions, this also conceals the myriad services required for the wider UCL campus and the new Lower Refectory.

New classical planting, including large pleached trees and climbing wisteria, complements and provides a softening frontage to the built form. A number of edible species also allow staff and students to further interact with the new space, be it through flowers, herbs or fruit trees.

The terrace opens up a new east-west route to improve accessibility across the campus, in particular to the Bloomsbury Theatre and New Student Centre, which is due for completion in late 2018.  

Wilkins Terrace will now be used as a backdrop for University functions and and student gatherings – creating an invaluable events resource and social space for the entire academic community.

The terrace is sculpturally carved out of Portland stone, a sustainable and durable material that also makes up UCL’s Grade I listed Wilkins Building

The Lower Refectory is located at lower ground floor level in the Grade I listed Wilkins building, and occupies a key location connecting the new Wilkins Terrace with the forthcoming student centre (currently on site). The new facility provides a reconfigured dining hall, servery, kitchen and catering support facilities to service UCL’s Bloomsbury campus. 

The Dining Hall has been relocated to the heart of the Wilkins building to inhabit the original grand double height arched space, whilst the servery and support facilities have been relocated to the secondary spaces below the existing Bloomsbury Theatre and the new Wilkins Terrace. 

The existing suspended ceilings and interstitial plant deck in the main space have been removed, allowing the original masonry arches and clerestory windows to be exposed again, re-establishing double height day lighting to both sides of the dining hall, providing UCL with a grand collegiate dining facility at the heart of the Bloomsbury campus.

The main entrance to the servery will align with a new north-south route that will be created once the student centre is completed. In order to improve the connection between the North and South Colonnades and across campus, the glazing to these facades has been restored and additional entrance doors have been added.

Fixed tall banquette seats align with the existing arched piers and provide defined spaces within the dining hall linked with a large, dramatic circular light installation. The east and west ends of the dining hall have more intimate seating areas and a hospitality bar (for events) with lowered acoustic timber ceilings creating added intimacy. The flanking orangery spaces have more informal low banquette seating, and a stone floor finish enhances the connectivity with the external colonnades and terrace. 

Andrew Grainger, Director of UCL Estates, said: “This is a significant milestone for our Transforming UCL programme delivering flexible outdoor space at the heart of our Bloomsbury campus within an existing Grade I listed building. It is a fabulous space developed for our staff, students and visitors and will benefit and inspire our entire academic community for generations to come. This project – its scope and quality – really encapsulates the vision and scale of Transforming UCL in Bloomsbury and beyond.”


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