Places & spaces: October 2021

Stunning new university buildings are popping up all over the world. Here are some of this month’s best

University of Leicester

Tenants taking up residence in the University of Leicester’s new Space Park (pictured above) will be the first at the institution to benefit from smart lighting.

DW Windsor was appointed to supply external lighting equipment for the development: a hub bringing together industry, academics and students working in space and space-enabled sectors. It will also serve as the UK headquarters for the National Centre of Earth Observation.

Utilising luminaires from the company’s Kirium outdoor lighting range, the installation’s central management system offers both increased energy savings and the ability to set up and manage dimming regimes remotely.

“Space Park is an ambitious project, and we wanted to ensure there was a modern look to the building,” said Matthew Boylan, RM M&E technician for the university. “It was important to use solutions that will stand the test of time, and look clean and contemporary for the years ahead.”


Image © Studio Harel Gilboa

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Norman Foster’s architectural practice has completed work on the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences, a stunning new building at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Particularly eye-catching are the decorative aluminium screens enshrouding the upper three levels, modelled on Nobel-winning neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s drawings of the brain’s neurological structure.

“The new building is located just off the main pedestrian spine of the university and its facade invites exploration, drawing people inside to learn about the research activities,” explained Foster + Partners’ Darron Haylock.

The two wings of the concrete development meet across a grapefruit tree-lined central courtyard, topped by a retractable roof and graced by a cogitation-inducing stream running its full length. Inside, the design incorporates a mix of bridge-linked labs (doubling as social hubs in a bid to “encourage informal interaction and the exchange of ideas”), library, teaching facilities, café, gallery, and 200-seat auditorium.


University of Oxford

Work has been completed on the largest redevelopment of St Hilda’s College since its founding in 1893. The centrepiece of the £20m project is 54 new student bedrooms, intended to relieve the financial pressure for students seeking accommodation in Oxford’s private rental market.

Other elements of the venture include a new main entrance, a riverside pavilion, new teaching and office space, a new boundary building to house the middle common room, chapel and porter’s lodge, and crowning the college’s tower in gold foliage.

Locally based construction firm Beard was tasked with carrying out the work. “Everyone is stunned by the architecture, the quality of finish and, above all, Beard’s commitment to meeting client expectations,” said Neil Hyatt, head of buildings at St Hilda’s College. “Despite the challenges due to coronavirus, as promised, our study rooms were ready on time for the start of the academic year.”


Image © Jaime Herraiz for Kéré Architecture

Burkina Institute of Technology

Locally sourced materials predominate at a new university in Burkina Faso, where clay walls help cool the interior and eucalyptus wood screens offer shade to corridors and walkways. Like Lycée Schorge Secondary School, in whose campus in Boulkiemdé Province it stands, the Burkina Institute of Technology was designed by Burkinabe architect Diébédo Francis Kéré’s studio, and offers students a chance to continue their studies.

The 2,100 m² facility’s deceptively simple design masks some ingenious thinking.

For example, repeated modules – comprising classrooms, lecture halls and auxiliary spaces – are arranged in staggered formation to maximise airflow around the building, while stacked rooftop openings allow for natural ventilation by expelling rising hot air.

Best of all is the building’s ability to turn a flood plain location to its advantage. When the rainy season strikes, water is funnelled into a capacious underground tank and, once floods recede, deployed to irrigate the campus’s prodigious mango plantations.

You might also like: Places & Spaces: September 2021

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