Defining a new focal point for UCL’s Bloomsbury campus.
Despite the scale of UCL’s estate in Bloomsbury, they lacked good quality collegiate external space. Through their masterplan, an opportunity was identified to create a new courtyard terrace above an existing service yard and provide a new high quality landscape space for both staff and students.
The existing service yard had become unsightly with single storey buildings, skips and containers added over time. It was also overtly overlooked by a number of important 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. 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.
The project wasn’t linked to a particular department or school – indeed 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 the whole university.
We developed the idea of enclosing the services yard as an undercroft, allowing the external space above to form new amenity for a variety of uses. This is conceived as a contemporary, high quality, stone landscaped terrace set within the historic courtyard. The terrace itself is split level with the lower space serving the 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.