The achievement of high quality design in the higher education sector has been recognised in the Regional Finals of the 2016 RIBA Awards with around 20 projects across the country demonstrating the high quality of architecture being achieved in a wide range of facilities from student centres and libraries to high-tech biomedical research buildings. Breathing new life into existing buildings is a particular strength of the sector and the awards including Boardman House, a conversion of a historic Sunday School Building for Norwich University of the Arts (Hudson Architects), the Graduate School at Queen’s University Belfast in one of the best examples of Gothic revival architecture in the city (Consarc Design Group) and, revitalising 20th century buildings for the 21st, century, the reinvigoration of the iconic 1967’s Cripps Building for St John’s College in Cambridge (R H Partnership) and Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull where a bold new building for 21st century learning connect seamlessly into an adjacent 1950’s art deco and a 1970′s brutalist building (Sheppard Robson).
The ongoing expansion of the sector needs new buildings and, if one city shows that it maintains the tradition for high quality architecture, it is Oxford with the most higher education projects recognised in the awards of any one city including the Blavatnik School of Government (Herzog & de Meuron), the Investcorp Building at St Andrew’s College (Zaha Hadid), the Ruskin School of Art (Stratley Studios), the Weston Library at the Bodleian Library (Wilkinson Eyre) and the new Academic Wing at Wolfson College (Berman Guedes Stretton).
Research buildings include the Bob Champion Research and Education Building at the University of East Anglia (Hawkins Brown) which continues the university’s policy of highly sustainable projects, the National Graphine Institute at the University of Manchester (Jestico and Whiles) and the Maurice Wohl Institute for Neurological Sciences at King’s College London (Allies and Morrison and PM Devereux).
It is not just the large institutions that are achieving recognition with good design. The Arts University Bournemouth has two projects in Poole – its Drawing Studio (CRAB Studio) and the Student Services Building (Design Engine Architects) while the Royal College of Arts has created high quality new facilities in Battersea which are contemporary and fit well into the local environment (Haworth Tomkins).
The RIBA has established a new International Prize, the winner of which will be announced in December 2016, for “the most significant and inspirational of the year demonstrating visionary, innovative thinking and excellence of execution while making a generous contribution to society and its physical context”. Two universities are included in the shortlist of 30 projects across the world – Zaha Hadid’s Innovation Tower in Hong Kong and the Universidad de Ingenieria y Technologia (UTEC) in Lima, Peru, two projects which also introduce the contribution of the international design competition through which the architects were selected.
The Jockey Club Innovation Tower for Hong Kong Polytechnic University was designed by Zaha Hadid following an international design competition which asked for “a beacon structure symbolising and driving the development of Hong Kong as a design hub in Asia” to which Zaha and her team added the guiding principle of “collateral flexibility” between the departments to be housed in the building, while in Lima in Peru, Grafton Architects and Shell Arquitectos, again following a competition, have designed a new campus for UTEC as a new cliff which continues the sea edge on one side and creates an identity for the university on the other, while encouraging cultural interaction with the public.
The sector has achieved an impressive array of projects in which stakeholder engagement both within the institutions and outside would have been key to success, providing well-designed facilities for staff and students that also contribute positively to the external and public environment, helping to strengthen a sense of “place”.
(Photographs from RIBA and Grafton Architects)