Places & spaces: December 2021

Julian Owen explores some of the most eye-catching new construction projects at UK universities right now

Nottingham Trent University

With planning permission in the pocket, work is set to imminently commence on a towering new £35m home for the School of Art & Design at Nottingham Trent University. Designed by Hawkins\Brown, the 5,300m² development will offer state-of-the-art technology for film, animation, user-experience design, gaming and graphic design and illustration, and traditional design practice. Dedicated space will also be found for visual communication, moving image and digital screen disciplines, digital innovation lab, and black box studio.

“This new building pushes the boundaries, not only through the architecture and technologies used to create it, but through the courses on offer, the opportunity for collaboration, and the graduates it will produce,” said Michael Marsden, the school’s executive dean. NTU says that the project – slated to be completed by autumn 2023 – will likely create more than 350 jobs, as well as supply an additional £1m of student expenditure for the local economy.

Innovation Studio, Arts University Bournemouth, UK – Photo: Richard Bryant


Arts University Bournemouth

The project’s architect and Arts University Bournemouth alumnus, Professor Sir Peter Cook, was among the guests at the recent opening of AUB’s new Innovation Studio. Besides housing some of the latest digital and physical manufacturing technologies, it is hoped that the undeniably striking interior space – think collision between an IKEA warehouse and a Fine Fare supermarket circa 1978 – will help create over 80 business and graduate startups. UAB claims that it should generate more than £13m in GVA for the local economy by 2025.

Facilities include large-format additive printing, CNC milling and waterjet cutting, and VR/AR technologies including projection, 3D body scanning, and a green screen studio. “For students, going to the Innovation Studio means forgetting the limits in their brains – from their education and from where they were before – to be free to think about the world,” said another opening ceremony attendee, the acclaimed French architect, Odile Decq.

Liverpool Hope University

A series of large-scale building and refurbishment projects have been launched at Liverpool Hope University. Most prominent is the £6m InQuiry – or IQ – Building, to be erected on the site of a lecture theatre complex, and planned to open by the end of next year.

Among the highlights will be a VR-housing simulation lab, to be utilised by students from a broad range of study areas, and a staircase that doubles as seating, allowing people to congregate between floors. This social aspect will be augmented by a plethora of ‘sticky spaces’, architecture-speak for areas encouraging people to loiter in groups. Additional space will also be handed over to the Students’ Union.

As well as improving the ‘student experience’, the new developments are intended to help Hope hit its net zero targets. Thus there are solar panels, air source heat pumps in place of gas boilers, and a maximising of natural daylight to help reduce energy demand.

University of Leeds – Photo: Paul Karalius


University of Leeds

The schools of physical sciences and engineering have been brought together following the completion of the Sir William Henry Bragg Building at the University of Leeds. A blending of the historical and the contemporary, the 16,000m² development is centred around a repurposing and remodelling of the institution’s Grade II-listed Old Mining Building.

The new-build glass-and-steel element rises to seven storeys from a negatively pressured, hermetically sealed basement, designed to ensure that vibrations from passing traffic do not interfere with the ultra-sensitive laboratory instruments (including advanced electron microscope technology for investigating and fabricating new materials).

“The Sir William Henry Bragg Building now combines a world-class environment for energy and materials research with state-of-the-art science teaching and learning spaces,” said Jon Roylance, from the project’s designers, ADP Architecture. “By encouraging a participatory and forward-thinking briefing and design process, the university has delivered a truly collaborative and interdisciplinary teaching and research facility.”

You might also like: Places & spaces: November 2021

Leave a Reply

Free live webinar & QA

Blended learning – Did we forget about the students?

Free Education Webinar with Class

Wednesday, June 15, 11AM London BST

Join our expert panel as we look at what blended learning means in 2022 and how universities can meet the needs of ever more diverse student expectations.

Send an Invite...

Would you like to share this event with your friends and colleagues?