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 14,000 m2 of teaching, administrative and social space and the construction of a new 300 seat lecture theatre. The buildings within the scope of this project currently house the 3 academic schools of Computer Science, Engineering & Technology and Physics, Astronomy & Mathematics and a number of centrally bookable teaching spaces of varying size. The current organisation of the schools and teaching space within the buildings has lost a degree of focus as new requirements have been housed in ad-hoc spaces as these have become available over the years. Some parts of the buildings, including building services, have been refurbished over the years but again on a somewhat ad-hoc basis with some areas barely touched since they were originally constructed in the 1950s. The project aims to co-locate and consolidate the Schools and similarly the general shared teaching space and to upgrade finishes and the buildings’ environmental systems.
The project’s intended outcomes are as follows: the Main & Hutton Buildings will be fit for purpose with a significant improvement in the condition and suitability of this part of the University’s estate leading to a material enhancement of the student and staff experience on the College Lane Campus; the 3 academic Schools will achieve a greater sense of identity and functionality as a result of their greatly improved co-location and the integration of teaching and research roles; there will be significant additional opportunities for student/staff interaction & ‘visible’ teaching, for cross-disciplinary interaction and for informal individual & collaborative study; the reorganisation of the size and number of teaching spaces leads to a substantial, if not complete reduction, in the accumulated deficit of the required capacities of timetabled teaching spaces.
At the core of the project is the 300m long primary spine corridor, part of the original 1950’s buildings, which will be refurbished to provide a dynamic social learning environment running through the heart of the campus. This will offer students and staff places for study and socialising in addition to spaces for ‘pop-up’ events and exhibitions. The corridor is highly glazed along its length offering views into newly landscape courtyards.
The teaching space provision at the University will be enhanced by a new fit for purpose 300 seat lecture theatre which replaces an existing poor quality hall. The lecture theatre has been design with input from user groups across the University – academics, students and senior management – and has evolved into an innovative tiered horseshoe form with a large glazed window that provides views out to the centrally landscape and, as importantly, views into this primary teaching space. The proposal breaks down the black box nature typical of this typology and offers a pedagogically exciting teaching space at the heart of the campus.