Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
The Central Saint Martin’s Building for The University of Arts in London by Stanton Williams
October 9th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Stanton Williams
To the north of King’s Cross and St Pancras International railway stations, 67-acres of derelict land are being transformed in what is one of Europe’s largest urban regeneration projects. The result will be a vibrant mixed-use quarter, at the physical and creative heart of which will be the new University of the Arts London campus, home of Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design.
Stanton Williams’ design for the £200m new campus unites the college’s activities under one roof for the first time. Completed in August 2011, the new 40,000 m² campus for 4,000 students and 1,000 staff provides Central Saint Martins with a substantial new building, connected at its southern end to the Granary Building, a rugged survivor of the area’s industrial past. A key requirement of the client throughout the project was for a high quality, distinctive, forward-looking design that is highly flexible and adaptable to future needs.
The design aims to maximise the connections between departments within the building, with student and material movement being considered 3-dimensionally, as a flow diagram North to South, East to West, and up and down – similar in many ways to how the grain was distributed around the site using wagons and turntables.
The Granary Building itself has been restored as the main ‘front’ of the college, facing a new public square that steps down to the Regent’s Canal. The design strategy retains the Granary Building, adapted to function as the college’s library and galleries, while the transit sheds behind are converted to create spectacular workshops for the college. Here, new shops and bars at street level openings will add further life to the area.
The bulk of the college’s accommodation, however, is located in a major addition to the site, two substantial new studio buildings that occupy the space between the two transit sheds and which, at the North end of the site present a contemporary elevation to the surrounding area. The scale of the new addition responds closely to that of the Granary Building, essentially continuing its massing along the length of the site. It rises above the level of the transit sheds, using contemporary materials so that it will stand, beacon-like, as a symbol of the college’s presence within this rapidly-evolving part of London. The two new four storey studio buildings are punctuated by a regular rhythm of service cores that accommodate lifts, stairs and toilets and are arranged at either side of a covered central ‘street’, covered by a translucent ETFE roof.
The internal ‘street’ has been conceived as a dynamic area, an arena for student life, akin to the much-loved stair at the centre of the college’s previous main building. Bridges linking the various cores and workspaces cross it, offering break-out areas for meeting, relaxing and people-watching. The street acts as a creative heart for the building, bringing together students from different courses to exchange ideas.
At the southern end of the new block and running parallel with the north end of the Granary Building is a second covered ‘street’, offering public access through this part of the building interior. Lifts rising through this space recall the vertical movement of grain, which gave the complex its original purpose. Flooring details either retain existing turntables or hint at their historic location, while within the Granary Building itself, the hoists have been retained, crowning a newly inserted lightwell. Simple glazing maintains the integrity of the unbroken openings, rhythmically punctuating the Granary Building’s main façade. Drawing inspiration from the ambition and scale of its Victorian architectural setting, the design introduces a strong contemporary intervention that celebrates the juxtaposition of old and new in its detailing. Materials were carefully chosen to be appropriate to the listed industrial context: Sensitive consideration lead to the use of fair faced concrete, robust metal panels and industrial cast glass.
Great importance has been placed on ensuring the new campus embodies best practice in sustainable design, overcoming the constraints of a listed industrial structure and ensuring the building design allows maximum scope for adaptation. This sustainable design strategy allowed us to work towards a BREEAM rating of ‘very good’
Designed to provide an unparalleled inspirational and creative space for the university and its students, the new campus includes performance spaces with two theatres and dance studios, bar and ticketing area together with exhibition areas and a roof terrace. The result is a state-of-the-art facility that not only functions as a practical, sustainable solution to the college’s needs but also aims to stimulate creativity, dialogue and student collaboration.
The realisation of such an ambitious and successful project has generated significant attention from international media and has been widely praised by the client, users and architectural press, helping to maintain the University’s unparalleled reputation for arts education.
Throughout the design process, we focused on a close collaboration with the University, gaining a thorough appreciation of their vision and understanding of the particular spatial needs and interaction between the varied disciplines of a new arts campus. Open dialogue and early briefing sessions continually tested and questioned user requirements. This approach to design created a building complex with flexible spaces that can evolve, change over time and respond to changing teaching methods and learning environments – all importantly, within an organising architectural framework
The creation of an exceptional new learning environment, that supports the highest quality experience for its students has been recognised by a number of design and planning awards. Judges at the 2011 Education Architect of the Year Awards noted that the new home for Central Saint Martins College was one of the most impressive buildings built in the UK over the past 12 months.
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