UCL’s faculty of laws is a study centre that needs to expand. Its existing home, which includes a listed former union headquarters, will soon be re-planned, the two existing buildings forming a new single identity for the faculty. Extensive alterations will create additional floor space and address historic limitations, allowing new formal and informal learning opportunities. Internally, a glazed atrium will connect the two buildings with a new, central heart to the faculty, while externally new Portland Stone cladding will unite the two buildings visually. The project within the grade II-listed Bentham House is a part of the Bloomsbury campus.
In response to an ageing building, modern methods of learning, and an expanding body of students and staff, the faculty has a critical need for more and higher quality spaces for offices, research and teaching, as well as common areas to enhance the experience of university life.
The faculty of laws has been located at Bentham House since 1965, just eight years after its construction. In 2005, the faculty acquired the adjacent building, the Gideon Schreier Wing. The two buildings are no longer large enough, and were never intended to function together.
A key aspect of the Levitt Bernstein’s design for the project is therefore to integrate, physically and socially, all existing parts of the Bentham House and the Gideon Schreier Wing. Currently, they are linked only at first floor level, many spaces are physically separated and there are complicated access routes to parts of the building. The layout will be rationalised, greatly improving the buildings’ wheelchair accessibility and legibility. A new circulation route will lead through a central atrium to a new social hub, where new lift and stair access will aid wayfinding.
The increased space that is required will be created behind the Gideon Schreier Wing, meaning that the Bentham House building can be largely unaltered. On the lower floors, teaching spaces will be created, relocated and reconfigured to create a flexible suite of different-sized teaching rooms, allowing a range of teaching styles, with a dedicated suite of rooms to accommodate PhD students. On the upper floors, new offices will accommodate the faculty’s teaching staff.
Outside, the Gideon Schreier Wing will be re-clad in Portland stone, connecting the listed buildings to either side, reinstating the grain and proportions of the street, and reflecting the unified faculty home inside.
UCL’s sustainability agenda has driven proposals to reduce energy consumption and incorporate green features including bio-diverse roofs with photovoltaic arrays. A BREEAM ‘very good rating will be achieved.
Dame Hazel Genn of UCL’S faculty of laws said: “Bentham House has been the faculty’s home for almost 50 years and this exciting project marks an important moment in our history. The new development retains the history of Bentham House while offering modern facilities which reflect our position as a world-leading centre for legal education and scholarship.”
Matthew Goulcher of Levitt Bernstein said: “This project for UCL provides state-of-the-art facilities and also gives them a refreshed physical identity, achieved by combining the two disparate existing buildings to make a new, single architectural composition of real quality.”
Robert Staton, project officer at UCL estates, said: “The refurbishment and expansion of the faculty of laws will address longstanding building and space deficiencies, provide high-quality teaching and social learning spaces and provide the faculty with an energy-efficient, accessible building that will remain fit for purpose for the long term, whilst remaining sympathetic to the buildings history and status.”