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sbarc | spark, Cardiff University

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

A sculptural, staggered staircase forms the heart of Hawkins\Brown’s building for Cardiff University, making a place that exudes joy and has won a 2024 RSAW Award

sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography

2024 RSAW Award

sbarc | spark, Cardiff University
Hawkins\Brown for Cardiff University
Contract value: £43m
GIA: 12,313m2
Cost per m2: £3,500

Located on Cardiff University’s Innovation Campus, sbarc|spark is an educational building which reflects the university’s mission to ‘promote and support high-quality, cross-disciplinary research and innovative knowledge exchange activities’. The 12,000m² of new workspaces, recreational areas, laboratories, exhibition spaces and breakout zones are arranged around the ‘Oculus’ – a sculptural staggered staircase that forms the heart of the building. With its finely executed design, the architect has produced a place that exudes innovation and joy. The more dedicated and concentrated uses such as offices, incubator units and learning rooms are placed around the perimeter, while functions that are more collaborative cluster around the Oculus. These spaces’ varied, well-considered fit-out options ensure that they all form a generous and flexible environment for learning, enterprise and knowledge sharing.

  • sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
    sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
  • sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
    sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
  • sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
    sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
  • sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
    sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
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At the civic scale, the building reads like offset stacked boxes with restrained facades and a limited palette of materials, but it is internally that the joy and generosity are in evidence. The circulation flow unlocks the creative and collaborative nature of the brief, with the Oculus offering a spectacular view upwards as the staggered staircase rises through the levels. Not only does it bring drama, but it also delivers spacious breakout zones on the landings at each level with various fit-out furniture types, providing users with a host of options for study and social interaction.

The building users include social science researchers, incubator units for entrepreneurs, public sector organisations and some well-established regional business organisations – all intermingling in spaces successfully designed for interaction. The thoughtful combination of furniture fit-outs, daylight and clarity of material finishes provide a fine backdrop for innovation and collaboration.

  • sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
    sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
  • sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
    sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
  • sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
    sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
  • sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
    sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
  • sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
    sbarc | spark. Credit: Will Scott Photography
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The building also offers a generosity for the occupants – not only in its ceiling heights but also in spatial quality, with large amounts of natural light complemented by well-placed artificial lighting. This generosity starts on the ground floor with a large reception space which openly extends to a café, the Oculus, and a flexible event space that can open or close to the main reception. With the various incubator and business units on the upper floors, enclosed workplace units are provided along with less defined workstations in what could be claimed to be circulation space. This is where the balance between workstation and interaction exists. It seems to work very well: the word on the street, not only from building occupants but from those from the larger university community, is that it is a great place to meet up and chat over the next innovative idea. It is a generous and innovative building of spaces.

See the rest of the RSAW Wales 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 Bouygues
Structural engineer Jacobs
Environmental/M&E engineer Arup
Quantity surveyor/ cost consultant F&G
Acoustic engineers Arup
Fire engineer Arup
Project management Gleeds
Planning Consultant DPP

 

Credit: Hawkins\Brown
Credit: Hawkins\Brown
Credit: Hawkins\Brown
Credit: Hawkins\Brown
Credit: Hawkins\Brown

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