Sheppard Robson's scheme creates a sense of generosity and distinctiveness that has won Natalia Maximova RIBA Yorkshire’s Project Architect of the Year award
Project Architect of the Year Natalia Maximova
Anne Lister College, University of York, York
Sheppard Robson for Graham Construction
Contract value: £64 million
Cost per m2: £2,749
The project provides 1,480 student residences along with social spaces that act as a ‘front door’ into the accommodation. It spans across two residential colleges – named after key LGBTQ+ figures Anne Lister and David Kato – which form a new gateway into the Heslington East Campus. Anne Lister College is the first phase of the project. The brief was to form a key addition to the university’s Campus for the Future masterplan, combining a long-established ambition to create a neighbourhood campus with a drive to modernise facilities through an approach that has sustainability, wellness and innovation at its heart.
The design arranges 18 residential blocks, nine of which are at Anne Lister College, around a series of interlocking courtyards. The central hub welcomes students, providing a shared social environment with a strong sense of community. The building feels open, inclusive and active, while the pastoral care of the college system seems integral to the design.
The project itself is socially embedded within the community, with local people enjoying the landscape for walking and cycling and a programme of festivals for the summer that are open to everyone. The scheme’s holistic wellness strategy prioritises student experience and welfare. The inner landscape will, as it matures, enhance the sense of security and seclusion, making it distinct from the areas outside of the college on the campus. Covered walkways shelter students as they move from their clustered accommodation to and from the hub.
Wellbeing is also promoted by the college’s student hub, which fosters community in the campus. Its entrance is brought to the fore with a bold canopy overhang and landscaped plaza. The double-height social spaces within encourage interaction and create an energetic frontage, as well as being a central hub for LGBTQ+ events and resources across the university. Wall graphics within the hub tell the story of Lister’s life.
The overall composition is sophisticated and balanced. The building is architecturally distinct from the multiple accommodation wings, which are robustly efficient and architecturally restrained. Decorative metalwork and an inlaid patterned frieze reference other buildings of the university.
Working with client Graham Construction, the architect used innovative modern methods of construction (MMC), with cross-wall prefabrications, integrated brick finishes, windows, internal walls, and prefabricated bathroom pods all enhancing quality while reducing construction waste and time. Through MMC, the scheme achieved a level of airtightness close to Passivhaus standard, reducing heat loss, improving acoustics, and enhancing fire safety, robustness and durability.
There is an overriding sense of respect and trust throughout the development team. It is evident that project architect Natalia Maximova has listened to the client, understood the programme’s pastoral requirements and developed a response that is appropriate to the design-build-operate model. Maximova’s thorough understanding of the project’s economics, of the benefits of modern construction methods, and of repetition has given the sch a sense of generosity and distinctiveness that could have easily been missed, making her a worthy recipient of Regional Project Architect of the Year Award.
Client University of York
Contractor GRAHAM Construction
Interior design ID:SR Sheppard Robson
Planning consultant Indigo Planning
Structural engineer Cundall
Services engineer RPS
Building performance Yonder Consulting
Landscape architect Landscape Projects
Ecology Brooks Ecological
Access consultant MAC Construction Consultants
Building control Accent
Principal designer Currie&Brown
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