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City refurb creates a warm welcome

City, University of London's 1960s main building showcases refreshed reception, social spaces, lounges and café

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | April 05, 2017 | Bricks & mortar

NBBJ’s London office has completed the refurbishment of the City, University of London’s main campus entrance, bringing a much-needed face lift to the University’s estate.  

A 1980s infill of the ground floor and other extensions had obstructed accessibility and the university identified the need to rationalise the entrance to the building, refresh the facilities for students and enhance the appearance of existing buildings and surrounding public realm.

NBBJ worked closely with the University to develop an alternative masterplan to transform the estate by adapting the structure rather than adding to it in a manner that is true to its original concept.The scheme incorporates the main University building, the hub building and a new pavilion that integrates sensitively into the Northampton Square and Hat and Feathers’ Conservation Area.

The main entrance and new freed-up ground floor showcases a refreshed reception, social spaces, lounges and a café, creating an entrance that is active and welcoming. The stepped frameless glazing on Northampton Square puts the original concrete columns on display, while a retractable glass wall to the ground floor café area enables the main entrance to open to the outside, activating the space during the summer months.

By upgrading this iconic brutalist building and removing some of the accretions of past decades we’ve given it a new lease of life

Apart from freeing up views through the building and creating new arrival space, the scheme also provides urban space to the community through the addition of concrete planters to create public seating around the campus. A new glazed pavilion has been added and provides a multi-purpose space that increases entrance capacity and can accommodate a variety of events for students and the community. 

By removing the existing mezzanine level and introducing a large opening into the basement the scheme provides links to multiple levels within the main building.  A generous new staircase is inserted from ground to first floor level, creating a tall open space that visually links the entrance foyer to the level 1 main concourse. 

The design ‘celebrates’ again the dramatic concrete structure of the original 1960s University Hall, now seemingly floating above the newly created arrival space. Converted into a Harvard style lecture theatre it offers carefully calibrated acoustics and glare-free natural light.

The main university building, which opens on to Northampton Square in London, was originally designed by Sheppard Robson in the 1960s with an elevated ground floor to allow the free flow of circulation by pedestrians below.   

Ingo Braun, Design Director at NBBJ said: ‘‘By upgrading this iconic brutalist building and removing some of the accretions of past decades we’ve given it a new lease of life and secured its future within City, University of London’s main campus, opening it up to a growing and changing audience. The new entrance and route through the building has transformed the building and underlines City, University of London’s position as a leading, global institution."

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