Originally built as an agricultural machinery showroom in 1914, the building is home to several University departments including fashion, sculpture, graphics and illustration. In recent years the building has undergone numerous works to refurbish and modify the building to meet the current needs of the University.
The focus of the recent modifications was to increase the awareness between the different departments, encourage greater interaction across the various disciplines taught within the building. A key area was that of circulation within the building, which was convoluted and disorientating, with each floor visually separated and staircases awkwardly located.
The use of a rich palette of robust materials reflects the building’s semi-industrial character while creating an elegant and contemporary space at the heart of the building. The dominant feature is a steel staircase rising through a new central atrium – reminiscent of walkways in industrial wharf buildings. Dark self-coloured steel cladding to the exterior contrasts with bright galvanized steel used for the treads and interior cladding, and its tough character is tempered by carefully concealed lighting positioned beneath the handrail. Polished screed and steel plate floors enhance the industrial aesthetic.
Crisp white painted plaster to the walls and landings reflects the natural light from above and enhances the sense of space. The intermediate landings are cleverly concealed within the structure to simplify their form. Full height glazed partitions admit light into the studios from the atrium, giving glimpses of the many creative activities taking place throughout the building.
The central atrium rationalises vertical circulation and visually opens up the studios on each floor. The project has transformed the building, as new wide stairs, landings and walkways at different levels now provide greater opportunities for interaction between building users.
Images © Joakim Boren