A new school of thought
The University of Warwick Faculty of Arts ranks as one of the top 50 Arts and Humanities departments in the world. A current lack of connectivity, low-rise building sprawl and a desire to incorporate more green space into the campus, has prompted the University to invest in a purpose-built, landmark building to house the globally respected Faculty.
In a RIBA-led competition, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, with multidisciplinary support from BuroHappold Engineering, won the bid to design an architecturally outstanding facility that will embody the cultural values of both the University and the Faculty. Currently housed in two separate buildings, the Arts and the Humanities departments will merge in a central campus that will encourage integration and interaction. The new building will contain four clusters set around a grand central stair within a full height atrium.
Working closely with the University and architect, BuroHappold provided multidisciplinary services for the showcase Faculty that will foster creativity, wellbeing and a sense of community.
The University’s vision was for a world-class, flexible environment that could adapt to the evolving needs of the Faculty over the next 50 years. Building in a high degree of flexibility was a key design requirement so spaces could be rapidly re-configured when required.
This complex project incorporates a feature, six-storey atrium space with long span link bridges that provide a high-degree of internal connectivity. Maintaining high levels of user wellbeing was a key driver, with the University aiming to achieve aspirational EPC A, DEC B ratings and BREEAM Excellent.
Delivering the University’s aim for studio and performance spaces below the teaching and office areas, created both structural and acoustic challenges. This proved particularly demanding because financial constraints prohibited the construction of fully isolated ‘box-in-box’ structures, as might normally be expected for such spaces.
We also had to resolve how to incorporate below-ground drainage services within a landscape of densely-spaced mature trees.
Following the competition brief, we set the basic structural and architectural arrangements around a regular 7×7 metre structural grid of columns and architecturally exposed reinforced concrete flat slabs. This will allow for future flexibility and open up the range of suitable structural framing strategies. This delivers best value for the client and acknowledges external factors such as contractor preference.
To accommodate a number of lecture theatres, studios and a cinema at ground floor level, as well as a column-free public entrance, we designed a substantial transfer structure to shift the regular planning grid below the first floor. Exposing the floor slab soffits allows them to be used as thermal mass, which is a key component in the building’s low-energy strategy. The new Faculty utilises a mixed-mode ventilation framework, providing openable windows in summer and maintaining excellent air quality in winter through high efficiency Mechanical Ventilation with Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery.
Working closely with the architect, our electrical engineers specified a range of feature lighting alongside functional and wayfinding solutions. This will enhance the internal environment and ensure the sculptural forms of the atrium and any feature artworks are well illuminated.
Our people-flow experts assessed the circulation and way-finding strategies to optimise sight-lines, core locations, stair widths and waiting spaces. As a result, the building will never seem crowded, even at peak change-over times. From the outset of the project, our fire engineers produced an optimised strategy that maximises the benefits of internal layouts on evacuation, as well as rationalising fire-fighting provisions.
BuroHappold’s acoustic consultants worked with the structures and MEP engineers to devise unique ‘box-in-box lite’ build-ups, which provide a degree of structural isolation and maximise sound reduction. We also carried out tests to ensure the building would not appear excessively reverberant or noisy when occupied by hundreds of people moving around in the various connected spaces.
To mitigate risk to the mature trees on the site, our design for the below-ground drainage services was closely co-ordinated with the landscape architect, following advice from the arboricultural specialist.
By working collaboratively with the design team, BuroHappold has created an international benchmark for arts faculties. Our team’s expertise delivered flexible, bespoke solutions that will provide an inspiring space for current students and attract new ones. This exceptional, sustainable building will become a cultural destination and fully support the University’s position as an international leader in Arts and Humanities education.
Services and approach
When we integrate our specialist teams around an approach, the benefits to the client multiply