Places & spaces: July 2021

Julian Owen brings you the latest developments for the modern university estate – from stunning new architecture to ingenious interior design

Queen Mary University of London

Queen Mary University of London’s ambitions for its main library have become a little loftier, following news that planning permission has been awarded for a two-storey rooftop extension.
Part of a wider refurbishment of the library, and comprising 1,550m² of floor space, the project will include flexible, naturally lit study spaces and large, open-plan study halls.

Being able to grow vertically alleviates the need for any demolition in making the improvements and protects adjacent open space. Other environmental benefits of Purcell’s design include proposals for a biodiverse roof – replete with a large array of solar panels and air-source heat pumps – and nesting boxes and climbing plants on the existing walls.

Thanks in part to its offering of generous skyline views, the extension will “redefine the students’ experience of the library” when it is completed in the autumn of next year, according to Purcell senior architect, James Murray.


Ravensbourne University London

Some buildings are more landmark than others; the newly opened Institute for Creativity and Technology at Ravensbourne University London marks the first time the institution has simultaneously occupied two buildings in its 62-year history. It was worth the wait. The work of Barozzi Veiga, whose other recent projects include the stunning Shenzhen Conservatory of Music, its polished aluminium facade is an appropriately sleek signature for a building dedicated to postgraduate study and the future of design.

Behind large windows and beneath high ceilings reside a practical workshop space, an in-house creative agency, a startup business programme, an events hub and the university’s research department. A hub for experimentation by members of the local creative community, not just Ravensbourne students, the building is a notable addition to the expanding Design District landscape on the Greenwich Peninsula.

“We’re thrilled to be in the thick of such an inspiring destination,” said Ravensbourne vice-chancellor, Andy Cook.


Sheffield Hallam University

Images have been released of Sheffield Hallam University’s proposals for developing its city campus. Three predominantly brick buildings will stand on the site of the recently demolished science park, alongside a spacious outdoor public area.

With neighbours including a number of historic buildings connected to Sheffield’s industrial heritage, the permission-pending project is set to begin early next year and complete in the second half of 2023.

The initiative is the work of the Hallam Alliance, said to be the first of its kind in the UK for a university building programme, convening all design, construction and facilities management partners to collaborate through all stages of design, construction and operation.

“The space is designed to preserve the character of the surrounding area and a focus on environmental sustainability means the new buildings will be zero carbon-ready – a key ambition for the university,” said Sheffield Hallam’s deputy vice-chancellor (strategy and operations), Richard Calvert.



Desks, chairs, spilled protein shakes, and thousands of busy feet a day – university floors take quite the beating.

Bradford University, King’s College London, London School of Economics and Royal Holloway are among the institutions who’ve opted for Milliken carpet tiles to withstand heavy traffic and stains and absorb ambient sound, while also offering comfort and style to students, staff and visitors.

Its new ‘Wireframe’ collection fuses line art with tonal colour combinations. Lots of soothing, naturally inspired options here to boost wellbeing: combine various greens to create the feel of a field, or blues and greys for an ocean. And if building partition walls is out of the question, the tiles are an easy way to delineate distinct zones within large spaces. Try out different colours, patterns and room settings via an online visualisation tool on their website.

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