University of Winchester West Downs Centre

by Design Engine Architects

Client University of Winchester

Award RIBA South Award 2022

© Jim Stephenson

The West Downs Centre is situated on an arterial road to the west of Winchester, and provides a new ‘gateway’ building to the rest of the university’s less visible campus to its south-east. As such, it is designed to make something of a statement, which it does with a composition of three distinct geometric forms brought together around a central courtyard garden - a five-storey rectangular teaching building provides a backdrop at the rear of the site, while the entrance on the street is framed between the circular auditorium and triangular library. This clear and logical diagram is brought to life externally by the strong material palette, incorporating a knapped flint wall to the street, Corten façade screens to the auditorium and teaching building, and a sculptural saw-tooth zinc roof to the library.

Broadly speaking, the design strategy creates two types of space. Circulation spaces, open-plan areas and large rooms are designed to be robust, flexible and ultimately adaptable, with exposed concrete columns and slab structures and exposed services. This principle has already been tested by the occupation of one of the floors of the teaching building as a dedicated nursing facility. In contrast, there are several elements of the programme which required a more tailored approach to create specific characteristics - the intimacy of the contemplation space, the intensity of the steeply-raked auditorium, the light and drama created by the long-span steel trusses and saw-tooth rooflights in the library, and the calm of the watery landscaped courtyard garden. The design team also managed to create ‘door-free’ movement between most parts of the building, no mean feat in the context of fire regulations for a complex multi-storey structure.

Even in these times of reduced occupancy levels due to COVID, students were clearly enjoying the range of spatial experiences that are revealed over time as one inhabits and moves around the building.

Internal area 7,500.00 m²

Contractor Osborne

Structural Engineers Heyne Tillett Steel

Environmental / M&E Engineers Mecserve

Quantity Surveyor / Cost Consultant Jackson Coles

Acoustic Engineers Sandy Brown

Access Consultant Atkins

Landscape Architects Land Use Consultants

Lighting Design Michael Grubb Studio

BREEAM Assessor Ridge & Partners

Transport Engineer Ridge & Partners

Façade Engineer Thornton Tomasetti

Fire Consultant Trenton Fire

CDM Consultant Scott White Hookins

© Jim Stephenson
© Jim Stephenson
© Jim Stephenson
© Jim Stephenson
© Jim Stephenson
© Jim Stephenson
© Design Engine Architects
© Design Engine Architects
© Design Engine Architects
© Design Engine Architects
© Design Engine Architects
© Design Engine Architects
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