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Dryden Enterprise Centre, Nottingham

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

Long-term, close understanding between Evans Vettori and the university produced this opportunity for small businesses to be part of a shared community, winning it a 2024 RIBA East Midlands Award

Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight

2024 RIBA East Midlands Award

Dryden Enterprise Centre, Nottingham
Evans Vettori for Nottingham Trent University
Contract value: £6.3m
GIA: 1971m2
Cost per m2: £3,196

The new Dryden Enterprise Centre wraps around Nottingham Trent University’s 1970s former library. It was commissioned by the university to offer a lively space for new and small businesses to be part of a shared community, while offering low startup rents. The design is full of well-executed responses to complex site constraints, including the existing structures and the root protection zones of adjacent trees. It is the product of a long-standing relationship between the architect and the university, whose collaboration spans more than 25 years.Their level of understanding is evident in the quality of the carefully crafted design response and forensic understanding of the brief.

The jury was deeply impressed by the designers’ skill in finding solutions to the considerable site constraints, and how they have turned them from challenges to advantages through inventive solutions, bringing to life an otherwise forgotten backland site.

  • Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
    Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
  • Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
    Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
  • Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
    Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
  • Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
    Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
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The surrounding mature plane trees and their root protection zones eat into the developable area. The architect solve this by cantilevering out the first and second floors to create a covered terrace. A sunken south-facing entrance courtyard supplies a level of street animation and activation that were previously missing, with the neighbouring campus buildings all looking inwards. The top floor sits in the tree canopy, with expansive windows, the foliage providing summer shading and a beautiful natural backdrop to working life. The neighbouring building is used to provide a secondary escape route, with an existing fire escape extended to meet the upper floors, liberating valuable floor space within the new building, and minimising expenditure.

The architect’s use of embodied carbon calculations to inform its material specification is to be applauded. To offset the use of a high-embodied-carbon material, cement replacements have been used and internal finishes are minimised, leaving the concrete structure and the mechanical, electrical and plumbing services exposed. This lends the building an industrial feeling appropriate for its purpose. The quality of construction is high. The exposed concrete acts as thermal mass, while operable windows allow for simple natural ventilation.

  • Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
    Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
  • Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
    Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
  • Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
    Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
  • Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
    Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
  • Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
    Dryden Enterprise Centre. Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight
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The building’s layout is a diagram of how it is to be inhabited, businesses growing up through it. Communal spaces are on the ground floor, with rentable individual desks in a shared space on the first and second floors. Larger offices seating up to 12 staff sit at the top of the tree, among the canopy.

The centre’s viability was called into question during the Covid-19 pandemic and the changes to working practices. It is a credit to its design and to the university’s commitment that it has developed a thriving community, and delivers opportunities for those spontaneous meetings on the stairs that are so often cited as potential sources of fruitful business collaboration.

See the rest of the RIBA East Midlands winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credits

Contractor Henry Brothers
Structural engineer Mott Macdonald
Environmental/M&E engineer Couch Perry Wilkes
Quantity surveyor/cost consultant RLF
Sustainability Focus Consulting
Project management Edge PS

Credit: Evans Vettori
Credit: Evans Vettori
Credit: Evans Vettori
Credit: Evans Vettori
Credit: Evans Vettori
Credit: Evans Vettori

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