Places & spaces: November 2021

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

Coventry University

A tower block forming part of a new £32m student housing development (pictured above) is being hailed as the tallest building in Coventry. Ranging between five and 20 storeys, the buildings comprising Parkside Infinity total 504 rooms and are topped with a panoramic rooftop terrace and night-time beacon.

Developed by Erec Estates and designed by London-based architecture studio Apt, each portion of the build is organised around a central courtyard and secluded landscaped garden. Besides clusters consisting of between five and nine en suite bedrooms, the scheme includes a gym, cinema and karaoke room.

“It has been absolutely amazing working with Apt on UNINN Parkside Infinity, a PBSA which is the tallest building in Coventry and definitely one of our proudest projects so far,” said Echo Wu, development manager at Erec Estates.

“The fantastic design, ample storage, the classy and stylish colour scheme and the sky lounge have all made Infinity one of the most popular choices for students.”

Queen Mary University of London

Opened in 1927 as home to Wickhams department store (the ‘Harrods of the East’), the former Beaux Arts building in Whitechapel has reopened as distinctly 21st-century office space.
Specifically designed for hybrid working, Dept W is fitted out with a range of technology offering professional services staff at QMUL a mix of remote work and in-office time. The open-plan office space is built for hot-desking, while each meeting room is fitted with facilities to host blended meetings, in which physically present attendees are joined by colleagues online.

Besides collaborative spaces, the £11m development includes quiet spaces for calls and face-to-face meetings. There is room for more than 650 staff to be accommodated on site, together with a ground floor café open to the public.

“Dept W provides our staff with the very best in modern hybrid working facilities, whilst also freeing up space for students across our other campuses,” said QMUL president, Professor Colin Bailey.

University of Exeter

Following three and a half years of planning and construction, the second and final phase of Exeter University’s East Park project has seen residents move into its 578 new rooms. Phase one was completed in time for the beginning of the last academic year, with the overall project accounting for 1,182 rooms. Both stages were developed by University Partnerships Programme.

“Only a short walk from the centre of our Streatham campus, the modern rooms and facilities are in high demand, particularly for first year students leaving home for the first time who want the benefit of an enhanced social experience and wellbeing support,” said registrar and secretary for the University of Exeter, Mike Shore-Nye.

The development – a mixture of standard, en suite and enhanced accessible bedrooms, as well as study and social spaces – was built by VINCI Construction UK and will be operated through a full facilities management service.

Brymor Construction has refurbished University of Southampton’s newly refurbished Montefiore halls of residence, including new kitchens and communal areas


University of Southampton

A £12m refurbishment has been completed at the University of Southampton’s Montefiore halls of residence. Originally opened in 1966, the blocks on Wessex Lane now boast fully revamped rooms and communal spaces, as well as new and upgraded kitchens.

Formerly communal washrooms have been converted into self-contained shower pods, while work outdoors has seen upgrades to landscaping, paving, footpaths and lighting. Brymor Construction was able to complete its assignment in time for the new academic year, as students returned to campuses following the easing of lockdown restrictions.

“This was a substantial project aimed at breathing new life into ageing accommodation blocks, to ensure they meet the high standards set by the university and demanded by students today,” said Stephen Morton, chairman of Brymor. “There were a number of different elements which required careful planning and management while ensuring the refurbishment remained on course despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.”

You might also like: Places & Spaces: October 2021

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