Design boost for Nottingham Student Union

The transformation of The University of Nottingham’s 1950s Portland Building has started with the opening of The Studio

The Studio is a new social and performance space for more than 150 people at the University of Nottingham‘s Student Union.

The designs, by CPMG Architects, have been realised as part of a wider project to create a new, dynamic hub to transform the Students’ Union through extensive remodelling, refurbishment and interior design. 

This is the first of three phases to be completed which has refreshed the space, known as The Den, to create a contemporary addition to one of the university’s oldest buildings.

This is the second time Sara Harraway, director at Nottingham-based CPMG, has helped to modernise the Portland Building after working on the building’s final phases of refurbishment in1994 when she was a junior interior designer at the firm.

“This is a project close to my heart as the Portland Building’s initial refurbishment was one of my first projects at CPMG,” said Sara. 

“For this project we were given an ambitious brief which required our designs to maintain the heritage of the original 1950s building, as well as meeting the needs of the Students’ Union – a bold, yet sensitive approach.

“It was crucial to implement a flexible design to accommodate the needs of the Students’ Union – the incorporation of moveable walls and a retractable stage has adhered to this aim. We have created a flexible space supporting the varied activities associated with society membership within the Union.”

The Students’ Union President, Angharad Smith, has also welcomed the renovations which have meant that the previously underused area can now be used to its full potential.

“It’s very different from The Den – which was quite dull and uninviting,” she explained. “The space has been completely transformed – it’s light, bright and has a more inclusive and sociable feel.”

Plans for the project began in 2014, with CPMG completing a comprehensive masterplan to modernise the Portland Building, making it more accessible and functional for the university’s thriving student community. The Studio has given the Students’ Union a space where clubs and societies can meet to manage and run activities. Further work on-site due to commence next year.

CPMG is an award-winning architectural practice based in Nottingham and London. For more information visit



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