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State-of-the-art teaching centre for Warwick

'The Oculus' centre set to be visual focal point of the university

Posted by Hannah Vickers | June 04, 2017 | Facilities management

The new centre, created by Berman Guedes Stretton architects, features an impressive 18m tall glazed frontage to University Road beneath a striking curved laminated timber roof. 

The Oculus is the latest addition to the Russell Group university’s main campus, and is the first new building in a new phase of development. This marks the second project BGS have completed in recent years for the university.

The £19.1m centre delivers much-needed lecture and seminar spaces for the ever-expanding student population, and is the first interdisciplinary building on campus that will be used for teaching by all departments. 

Measuring 4,750sqm, the building contains two large lecture theatres, 12 seminar rooms, flexible social learning spaces and a café.

The new cafe

Lawrence Young, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Warwick, said: “We wanted an architecturally outstanding building that represents our commitment to the student experience. BGS worked closely with us to turn this objective into a physical space that not only delivers our educational goals but is also an integral part of university life and the landscape. The building has exceeded our expectations and has already become the main feature of our campus. It’s a real signature project for the University and sets the scene for the next 50 years.”

More features include two-tiered lecture theatres, with 250 and 500-seat capacities, which are stacked beneath the dramatic timber roof. The larger upper theatre, now the largest on campus, is open to the underside of the timber roof and benefits from ample daylight and a state-of-the-art edge blended projection screen. 

The new lecture theatre

The wings of The Oculus accommodate 12 top-quality, flexible seminar spaces, ranging in size from 30 to 100 seats, that include the latest teaching assisting technology such as multiple projection screens, ultra HD high brightness projectors, visualisers, touch panel controls, wireless audio, lecture capture and webcast facilities. 

BGS’s design also incorporates a system of electronic displays outside the entrances of all rooms to provide live room-booking information and indicate when rooms are free for use by students outside of teaching time. 

The design includes a feature for the three largest of the four ground-floor seminar spaces: the external walls can be opened up onto landscaped external terraces, matched in size to the rooms within.  

This feature was developed in collaboration with the university’s Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL) during the briefing stages to align with their aspiration to encourage more inside/outside learning activities, capitalising on the green campus environment.  

All of the ground floor seminar rooms’ storage space have integrated to allow the rooms to be entirely cleared of furniture to suit a variety of different uses such as innovative, movement-based teaching models, conferencing events, and use by student societies outside of teaching hours.

Timetable and map information will be shown from the video wall on the ground floor, which will also feature upcoming events, livestream broadcasts of any oversubscribed talks, and ‘chem-art’ by the university’s artist in residence, Mary Courtney.

The architect’s concept stretched outside of the building, with an expanded front of the building, a level-change between the ground floor terraces and the Toil field to create a natural amphitheatre and a double arcade of birch trees has been incorporated into the landscaping.

 In 2015, BGS delivered the Warwick Business School’s flagship London location on the 17th floor of The Shard, and they have a number of other ongoing projects on campus due to their role within the university’s consultant framework.

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