Defining a new focal point for UCL’s Bloomsbury campus.
Despite the size and sprawlscale of UCL’s estate in Bloomsbury, they lacked good quality colliegiate external space. Through their masterplan, we identified the opportunityan opportunity was identified to create some a new courtyard terrace above an existing service yard and andprovide a new hub high quality landscape space for both staff and students.
The existing service yard had become unsightly with single story buildings, skips and containers added over time. It was also extremely overtly overlooked, being entirely enclosed by a number of important different university buildings. 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. Moreover, although the university was keen to create a new social space within this project, the services still needed to be retained. 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.
As the aThe project had no direct business case – it it wasn’t linked to a particular department or school – indeed it t was a projectone for the wholeentire uUniversity: iIt’s students, staff and visitors and neededhad to be embraced as such. all of the university’s uses and users. Everyone was keen to be involved and so a steering group was established with the Provost,stakeholder representatives from throughoutthe the whole Uuniversity.
We developed the idea of enclosing the services yard within as an new undercroft, allowing the external space above to form new amenity for a variety of usesused as communal amenity. This Thise space is conceived as a contemporary, high quality, stone landscaped terrace set within the historic courtyard,. The terrace itself is split level with the lower levelspace serving a new refectorythe new Lower Refectory, which is linked by a new lift and grand staircase.
The terrace is sculpturally carved out of Portland stone, a sustainable and durable material that also makes up UCL’s Grade I listed Wilkins Building. A new ‘fourth façade’ completes the composition, working in harmony with the surrounding buildings. Designed to classical proportions, this also conceals the myriad services required for the wider campus and new Lower Refectory.
New classical planting, including large pleached trees and climbing wisteria, complements and provides a softening frontage to the built form. A number of edible species also allow staff and students to further interact with the new space, be it through flowers, herbs or fruit trees.
The terrace opens up a new east-west route to improve accessibility across the campus, in particular to the Bloomsbury Theatre and New Student Centre, which is due for completion in late 2018.