MCW were appointed by the University of Hertfordshire in 2015 to progress design proposals for the Main Building on College Lane Campus. The project encompasses the phased refurbishment of 15,000 m2 of teaching, administrative and social space collocating the schools of Physics Astronomy and Maths, Computer Science and Engineering. In addition the project incorporates a new build 300 capacity lecture theatre as the principle lecture space for the University.
The University’s Masterplan 2020 identified the requirement for a new lecture theatre to be located within the central courtyard of the original 1950’s campus buildings. This courtyard is one of four original courtyards and the only one to have an open side facing west towards the main entrance to College Lane Campus.
The consultation process with the university’s stakeholders reviewed a number of options for the overall form of the hall generally structured around three typologies – passive, interactive and collaborative. The process shared examples from across the sector and both UK and international projects an ranged from traditional straight row theatre spaces to more interactive in-the round spaces to recent examples that integrate collaborative ‘booths’ to promote a pedagogy of didactic and non-didactic teaching within the same space. A curved horseshoe form of the hall has been developed following this consultation and offers a primarily didactic teaching environment that encourages a level of interaction through its enclosed form. The rake of the hall takes advantage of the approximately 3.5 m change in level from a primary circulation route across the campus to external ground level in the courtyard.
In response to the consultation with stakeholders a large window has been incorporated at the front of the hall, behind the lecturer, and provides aspect from the hall onto a new landscape courtyard and the wider campus landscape. It will also facilitate views in to the space as a demonstration of ‘visible’ learning. The west facing widow has been sized to ensure a good aspect is available from all seats including those at the upper levels. Whilst recognising that a window in a lecture theatre will inevitably mean some compromise to traditional teaching methodologies, it is collectively considered that the feature will create a unique, exciting and challenging learning space that will augment the other more traditional ‘black-box’ lecture spaces on campus.