This new book is an inspiring collection of essays by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and other leading experts in the higher education sector. Beginning with a generic analysis of today’s dynamic trends and influences affecting university architecture and urban design, the book then focuses on specific issues in three case studies: Manchester Metropolitan University Business School and Hub, The Hive in Worcester and Broadcasting Place, Leeds Metropolitan University. As expected, the three fabulous buildings  are showcased with perfect descriptions by the project architects and excellent photographs by Hufton+Crow and Will Pryce, however, the new and exciting message of this book lies in the theoretical texts. There is a thrilling and persuasive manifesto written between the lines of those early pages.

In the Foreword, “The Three-Legged Stool”, Jeremy Till, Head of Central Saint Martins and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Arts London, identifies three competing new qualities of university design: civic, iconic and social. The explosion in student population has caused an increase in the civic function of urban universities. The new free market funding invites a marketable iconic identity. The student customer values an improved offer of social function.

John Brooks, Vice-Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University, describes four influential factors in “The Introduction”: The free market encouraging informed student choice, innovation in learning technology, environmental sustainability and civic function. Large university developments in cities have become important civic facilities in the public domain and can be aspirational symbols of the relationship between the city and the university.

In “The Changing Learning Landscape”, Andrew Harrison, Spaces That Work Ltd., describes the recent shift from instruction paradigm to learning paradigm, tailored to student preferences. Three types of space are now essential in universities: specialist, generic and informal. The new informal or social space allows flexible and spontaneous discussion and collaboration with reference to the internet rather than the library.

Keith Bradley begins “The University and The City” with a concise history of the university. Oxford and Cambridge Universities grew from the monastic buildings at the heart of the community. More than fifty years ago, a competition for Churchill College heralded a brief period of inventive and heroic university architecture. LeedsUniversity by Chamberlain Powell Bon became an influential model of a permeable university city block. However, planning trends of suburban zoning put campuses out of town until Richard Rogers led an urban renaissance into the new millennium. Universities then began to help regenerate urban centres through the integration of holistic learning. Education is a social activity overlapping the public realm. If knowledge is power, then the university should be represented in the new civic order.

Peter Clegg champions sustainability in “Higher Education: Regenerative Design”. As hosts of the educated, universities are ideal facilitators in the moves towards economic, social and environmental sustainability. Economic regeneration comes by designing flexibility into buildings, allowing changes in pedagogy or options of re-use. Social regeneration occurs where metropolitan universities contribute intimately and 24 hours a day to social development in the city. Environmental regeneration is achieved by primarily considering building form and skin. How to get light and air into the plan of a low energy building.

Bradley poetically summarises each case study with a sentence:

Broadcasting Place: “This strong physical identity, culminating in its tower skyline, captures a protected ground plane of public realm as a threshold to the institution”;

The Hive: “Co-ownership of an internal space of the usually rarefied academic library is one of the most radical steps in the integration of the university and the city”;

The Hub, MMU: “Expansive meeting and circulation floors reference the Exchange buildings in Manchester – historically trading goods, now the currency is knowledge and learning”.

Education Architecture Urbanism is published by Artifice, £24.99 RRP

Highly recommended reading for students and Vice-Chancellors.


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