Brynmor Jones Library, University of Hull
A major refurbishment to suit contemporary study needs, as well as repurposing the building as a key focal point for the university
Sheppard Robson's £28m upgrade of the main library at the University of Hull was far more than a simple refurbishment. The challenge was not only to bring the 16,000 sq m library buildings up to scratch physically and make them suitable for 21st-century university needs, but to use the project to repurpose the facility and establish it as the heart of the campus.
The library's two, linked buildings themselves presented quite a challenge. These consisted of a 1956 artdeco three-floor building containing the main entrance and a 1969 brutalist tower. Between them, the buildings had 17 staircases, making navigation difficult. Both had been insensitively altered and required an urgent upgrade of services and building fabric to make them fit for purpose once more.
The solution involved reorientation, expansion of facilities, and a thorough redesign to offer 36 rather than three choices of study settings in response to more interactive, collaborative and informal learning styles.
Sheppard Robson created a new entrance through the addition of a podium extension to better address the rest of the campus. A new four-storey atrium provides better connectivity between the two buildings.
A crucial move was the decision to make the whole of the ground floor public, pushing back security gates to the core of the plan to give general, public access to 2,500 sq m of the ground floor including the cafe and other facilities, such as a new multipurpose hall and a gallery. This displays the university's art collection, which had previously been located elsewhere on the campus.
In the upper study areas, a priority was to provide not just a choice of settings but to make these available on each floor to suit the changing ways that students might work throughout the day. 'We wanted to make it as easy as possible to change from one mode of study to another, so tried to provide as many different amenities as possible on each floor,' says Sheppard Robson partner Alex Salk.
These study settings include many variations of both individual and group, and formal and informal, working areas. Unlike the more prescribed spaces elsewhere, the top floor of the tower is open-learning space to be utilised however students require. In the art-deco building, Sheppard Robson refurbished the library's heritage suite that includes the office of celebrated poet Philip Larkin, who was university librarian from 1955 to 1985.
Sheppard Robson was keen to respect the different characters of the two buildings while finding a way to unify them through the material palette of its interventions. The refurbishment of the reading room in the art-deco building was informed by archive photography, with the practice reinstating coving and recreating light fittings. In the later building, Sheppard Robson exposed some of the original waffle soffit construction.
The client was keen to avoid the funky, brightly coloured approach taken for many university libraries recently. 'They wanted its character to be very grown-up and mature, one that respected its users as befits one of the 10 oldest universities,' says Salk. 'We used oak and highquality fabric to unify the two building in terms of furnishings.'
The refurbishment was the largest building project at the university for 20 years. User numbers have risen since it was completed last year and the library is now on the open-day tour as a key selling point for the university.
Mossbourne Community Academy, London
To create a new school on a heavily constrained but high-prominence site
Avanti Architects is designing a three-form entry primary school on the former 2012 Olympics site in East London.
Mossbourne Community Academy will be located in East Wick, one of five new neighbourhoods planned as part of the new Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
The design team faced considerable site challenges, including the proximity of the High Speed tunnel into Stratford and a major water and sewage pipe network beneath that part of the park. The split-level nature of the site also meant potentially costly, large-scale earth movements might be required. Another factor was site contamination.
Mossbourne Community Academy
Instead of the wider footprint building over the line of the High Speed tunnel as indicated on the legacy master plan, Avanti's solution was to utilise a compact, multistorey arrangement on the only part of the site that would avoid all these constraints.
Avanti opted to use a Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) frame to reduce site construction time. CLT also has aesthetic as well as practical advantages, according to Avanti Architects director Amir Ramezani. 'CLT also has an inherent warm look that can enhance the interior ambience of the building in situations where the timber surface and frame can be exposed,' he says.
Each of the main floor plates contains six classrooms and is defined by key stages of learning. All classrooms are organised around a lightwell with naturally day-lit circulation and double-sided ventilation. Internal glazing into the classrooms provides transparency, views and passive supervision. An early-years unit is located separately at canal-side level with direct access to outdoor areas.
The £9.3m project, for client MB Education, is due to complete next year.