Finding hidden space in the university’s estate to create a new student hub.
With a complex and sometimes under-utilised campus in central London, UCL is constantly looking for new opportunities to improve the offer for its students. In this case we were tasked with gluing three adjacent buildings together, one of which was Grade II listed, to provide new student union facilities.
Each of the three buildings had a varying architectural character, yet all had to relate to one another. The former bookshop, pub and laboratories were different shapes and sizes, constructed in different ways and at different times. Our challenge was to make them work as one, in a cohesive singular manner.
Student experience is at the heart of everything UCL does and this project was a chance for them to lead as the 'user' client. Representatives from the Students’ Union sat side by side with the estates team to define the brief, alongside those from neighbouring departments. Having an engaged, enthusiastic and varied client group made for a very collaborative and inspiring design process. Our brief was to fully explore what was possible, and through a series of workshops, gather feedback and develop proposals.
We started by looking closely at each of the buildings and the spaces between them – devising an approach that would add as much value to the university and students as possible. The idea of ‘found spaces’ quickly developed, where elements of the existing buildings are retained and combined with new interventions to create new volumes and views within the building and into the wider campus.
The previous laboratory has been modified and extended to form a new circulation hub, linking the once disparate three buildings– addressing accessibility issues with a new lift and stairs serving all levels. This also exploits natural light and ventilation to improve environmental performance and help the building achieve a BREEAM Bespoke Very Good rating.
The finished article has a raw, industrial feel. New architectural details contrast with the existing buildings. Exposed brickwork, original structural details and surface mounted services, together with new glazing and interior fit out, create a truly modern, informal space that students can relate to and enjoy.