• Architecture
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Education

Wilkins Terrace,
Camden

Info

Project Details:

Rationalising UCL's estate to create a new social hub at the heart of the campus.

Client: University College London

Construction Value: £9.3m

Completion: 2017

Location: Camden

Awards:

  • New London Awards 2014, Education: Shortlisted

Images: Ben Blossom

People

Despite the scale of UCL’s estate in Bloomsbury, central London, the University lacked good quality collegiate external space. Through their masterplan, an opportunity was identified to create a new courtyard terrace above an existing service yard to the rear of the Wilkins Building, UCL’s original home, to provide a new high quality piece of public realm for both staff and students. It was also part of the University’s wider strategy to improve accessibility, and in particular, east-west movement across the campus.

The lower terrace extends the refectory and offers social and study spaces for students

The Wilkins Terrace does something no other space on the campus does – providing a destination that wants to be occupied.

Matthew Goulcher, Managing Director

The terrace is overlooked by a number of important buildings at UCL and is a critical access point

Stepped planters, pleached trees and canopy structures for vines create informal seating areas

The project wasn’t specifically linked to a particular department or school – it was one for the entire University: its students, staff and visitors and needed to be embraced as such. Everyone was keen to be involved and so a steering group was established with stakeholder representatives from its academic departments, administrators, the estates and facilities team and the students themselves. We wanted to create a space for the whole University to celebrate and so we needed to engage with everyone, which we did through a series of workshops during the design process.

The existing service yard, known as the Physics Yard, had become unsightly with single story buildings, skips and containers added over time. It was also overlooked by a number of important University buildings: Wilkins Building to the west, Physics to the north, the London Centre for Nanotechnology (LCN) and Bloomsbury Theatre to the east, and the Donaldson wing to the south.

Before: The existing service yard was not providing any amenity space for students or staff

Design

Our challenge was to connect these disparate elements with one cohesive design solution – all the more problematic considering the Wilkins Building is Grade I listed, designed by the neo-classical architect William Wilkins in the late 18th century. Quite apart from the creation of the new terrace, there were a number of practical issues to be solved: providing good access and maintaining building services to the surrounding buildings.

Sectional perspective showing new terrace above existing service yard and relationship to surrounding buildings

We developed the idea of enclosing the service yard as an undercroft, allowing the external space above to become the new amenity space for a variety of uses. This is conceived as a contemporary, high quality, stone-paved terrace set within the historic courtyard with a verdant, planted edge. The terrace itself is split level with the lower space serving the new Wilkins Lower Refectory, which is linked by a new lift and grand staircase. The terrace also creates new routes across the campus, bringing activity where previously there was very little.

Exploded axonometric drawing showing the terrace in context

The 'fourth façade' to the east completes the classical courtyard and reflects classical Georgian proportions

The openings in the Portland stone façade are designed to follow the golden ratio

As proposals developed, we conceived a new ‘fourth façade’ to enclose the space. This wall completes the classical courtyard composition to the east and conceals the plethora of services required for the existing buildings and the new lower refectory. Constructed using Portland stone and designed to classical Georgian proportions, it is a contemporary interpretation of the surrounding historic architecture and helps to tie all the courtyard elements together.

The new Wilkins Terrace provides a unique courtyard space of distinctive quality, hidden within an urban estate, providing a backdrop for formal University functions and more informal events and student gatherings – creating an invaluable resource for the entire University community.

Core team

Matthew Goulcher

Managing Director

Barry McCullough

Director

Kate Digney

Associate Director, Head of Landscape

Mark Lewis

Associate Director

Tony Hall

Technical Design Director

Eleanor Mayfield

Senior Architect

Paul Martin

Senior Architect

Ben Monteagle

Senior Architect

Victoria Hale

Project Architect

Laura Gold

Visuals Technician

Dominic Patel

Architectural Visualiser