University of Warwick Faculty of Arts

Warwick, UK

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 Buro Happold, 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, Buro Happold provided multidisciplinary services for the showcase Faculty that will foster creativity, wellbeing and a sense of community.

Challenge

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.

Warwick Faculty of Arts Exterior View
Transformation: from a 1970s multi-storey carpark to a pleasant, natural environment. Image: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Solution

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.

Warwick Faculty of Arts Atrium render
Light and airy inspirational spaces encourage creative meetings and collaborations. Image: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

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.

Warwick Faculty of Arts Exterior View
Higher learning: taller more sustainable structures will house departments previously located in spread out, low-rise buildings. Image: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Value

By working collaboratively with the design team, Buro Happold 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.

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