Lower Mountjoy Teaching and Learning Centre
by FaulknerBrowns Architects
Client Durham University
Awards RIBA North East Award 2021 and RIBA National Award 2021
The Lower Mountjoy Teaching and Learning Centre provides an inclusive and welcoming environment for teaching and learning, which was clearly the focus throughout the design process. This is a substantial building in volume, but a clever and layered design approach has resulted in it feeling appropriate in its context where it could easily have felt imposing.
Externally, the main entrance appears serious and restrained, although the well-considered proportions of the elevations and the handmade brickwork give a softer feel on approach.
The subtle manipulation of "blocks" create zones within the building and help to create a more articulated series of façades when viewed from the outside. The building sits back into the sloping site and when passing the building to the south, the roofscape becomes more visible and the experience of the building becomes more playful.
Internally, the simplicity of the plan translates into easily manoeuvrable spaces, with a clear hierarchy as you move further through the building, all set around a dramatic but informal central atrium. The warmth of the space is aided by the introduction of detailed timberwork to the stair and balustrade, which draw visitors up and through the spaces. The roof form here gives a bright and sociable space that changes through the day depending on the light conditions.
The roof forms are one of the key elements of the design. The architects have created a roofscape that responds to the conservation and UNESCO world heritage site setting. The series of zinc standing seam asymmetric pyramidal forms are rotated to echo the ad hoc evolution of the mediaeval rooftops of the city, and this connection is highly successful. This also translates into the internal spaces, each having a slightly different character, orientation, and light in each of the zones on the upper floor.
Overall, this is a highly accomplished building. Restrained and sophisticated whilst also providing a welcoming environment and flexibility of use in a changing world of education. It is an outstanding addition to the university and the city.
Contractor Company Name Galliford Try
Additional Architect Practice Space Architects
Project Management Turner & Townsend
Quantity Surveyor Turner & Townsend
Structural Engineers Buro Happold
Structural Engineers Cundall
Environmental / M&E Engineers Buro Happold
Environmental / M&E Engineers Cundall
Planning Consultants DPP
Landscape Architects Land Use Consultants
Landscape Architects OOBE