Places & spaces: January 2022

We explore some of the most eye-catching new construction projects at UK universities right now

University of Westminster

A £1.6m refurbishment has been completed at the Innovation Centre in the University of Westminster’s School of Computer Science and Engineering (pictured above). Computing labs have been reconfigured and three existing rooms turned into a single area which can switch use between a 40-seater programming lab with clustered group work areas, and an exhibition area for open days, presentations, outreach work, and additional meeting space.

Willmott Dixon Interiors also installed a new heating and cooling system in the 790m² assignment, together with new lighting, flooring and stowable furniture, and a new AV system. “Despite a very restricted programme in an occupied building, [Willmott Dixon Interiors] completed the works on time,” said Joanna Prusiewicz, estates project manager at the university. “Their team was very professional, proactive and hardworking. They showed great collaboration with the building users and provided regular updates on the progress. The Innovation Space is superb and will attract a lot of students and visitors.”


University of Sunderland

The Northern Centre of Photography has been officially opened at the University of Sunderland’s David Goldman Technology Centre. Local news stalwart Jeff Brown dealt with the ribbon, allowing fellow assembled nobs ingress to state-of-the-art photography facilities. Designed by Howarth Litchfield architecture practice, the £1.1m centre includes specialised photography studios, darkrooms, finishing/processing/print rooms and workshops, as well as seminar spaces with magnetic walls and staff office facilities.

Students will also benefit from the centre’s hosting of the North East Photography Network, the region’s professional development agency, and a hub in which to meet and learn from visiting international photographers.

“The fabulous investment we have seen in our TV, radio and photography areas is already enabling our students to access a range of resources at the forefront of their subjects, giving them valuable hands-on experience with new technologies,” said Professor Arabella Plouviez, academic dean of the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries.


Bermondsey London

A topping out ceremony has been held at a new student residence in Bermondsey, London, slated to be ready for the start of the 2022 academic year. The development, overseen by Alumno, will offer fully integrated facilities for 143 students, including a cinema lounge, study room and community area.

“The development will not only provide much-needed high-quality accommodation for the area’s student population, but will also contribute to the vibrancy of this diverse neighbourhood and make a valuable contribution to the local community, in line with our ethos of always giving something back,” said Alumno managing director David Campbell.

Part of that contribution is related to the nearby Kintore Way Nursery School and Children’s Centre, for which the developer is helping refurbish the playground and develop an archive project to help point up the history of a facility with roots extending back to pre-war days.


University of the West of England

A year after completion, UWE’s new 8,500m² School of Engineering building has been officially opened. The four-storey facility was designed by AHR to accommodate 1,600 students and 100 staff, with the aim of addressing the rise in demand for skilled engineers in the region. It has already proved a sector hit, winning Social Infrastructure Project of the Year at the 2021 British Construction Industry Awards a month before its formal unveiling.

Digital tech features include engine test cells, driving and flight simulators, a virtual and augmented reality cave, and ‘smart factory’ testing facilities, all housed in a range of teaching studios, modelling and simulation suites, laboratories, specialist workshops and student learning zones. UWE hopes the new building will help significantly increase its number of female engineers and students with neurodiversity, while children as young as five will be invited to visit the building’s Prototype and Play Lab in a bid to encourage early interest.

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