Exemplary sustainability and open access characterise UCL’s flagship Student Centre, which provides 1000 study seats, café and Student Enquiries Centre
RIBA National Award winner 2021
RIBA London Regional Award winner 2021
Nicholas Hare Architects for University College London
Contract value: £43.2m
Cost per m2: £7,493
The Student Centre on UCL’s main Bloomsbury campus is a simple idea exceptionally well executed. Conceived as a giant wraparound stair with inhabited landings, it provides a terraced through-route at ground level and a hard-working double basement.
Completing the fourth wall of a Japanese garden courtyard, it links seamlessly through to Gordon Street to help the flow of pedestrians. Its restrained, elegant material palette generates a calm and inviting atmosphere that belies the high volume of student traffic.
The sober and rational courtyard elevation sits comfortably in its conservation setting. Reconstituted stone ground- and top-floor loggias emphasise the horizontality of a buff brick middle band and deep-set rhythm of windows. On the Gordon Street elevation, modulated window bays create depth and interest that holds up firmly to adjacent Georgian terraces.
Inside, the key move is the meandering, split stair in the atrium that sets the scene for social interaction, with densely packed with deftly chosen seating areas. The many study spaces in the basement are tall and bright, continuing the quality of finishes and lighting elsewhere.
The primary structural concrete – which is 50% ground granulated blast-furnace slag to limit embodied carbon – is extremely well finished and detailed. Soffits are free of services, which are nested behind floating suspended timber panels that double as acoustic baffles.
The centre has a tangible sense of occupant wellness, apparently attracting people to come and stay. In the fullest meaning of the word, it is sustainable.