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Kingston University RIBA Competition

Kingston University

​Grafton Architects
Competition | Past

​New Town House Building, Kingston University

The New Town House Building will reinforce Kingston University’s vision to be internationally recognised for its creative approach to education, with practical outcomes that benefit people and communities. It will replace an existing building on the site and occupy a prominent position on the northern edge of the Penrhyn Road Campus.

Invited Education and Health

Grafton Architects’ winning design was selected from a five strong shortlist that also included (in alphabetical order) multi-disciplinary design teams led by: Bennetts Associates; Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios; Haworth Tompkins and O’Donnell & Tuomey.

The Panel which evaluated the design submissions included four architects and an expert in the history of design. The Panel comprised, from the University: the Vice-Chancellor, the chair of the Board of Governors, the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Corporate Affairs/University Secretary, the Dean of the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, the Head of the School of Architecture and Landscape and the Estates Directors. They were joined by John Jenner (Greenhill Jenner Architects) acting as the RIBA Architect Adviser.

The University very much appreciated the significant amount of work teams had expended in developing their varied design proposals in response to the brief for the New Town House Building. The building will serve as the new public face of Kingston University, to provide a welcoming gateway to the campus that will be inclusive, contemporary and civic. It will be the biggest construction project that the University has embarked upon to date and will provide better access to key student support services, as well as accommodating a new enlarged learning resources centre, multi-function auditorium, rehearsal and innovative learning spaces.

The Grafton Architects’ scheme was considered to offer the greatest potential to meet the long-term needs and aspirations of the University, and provide a special, dynamic learning environment for showcasing what the University does. The long-span spaces and careful manipulation of volumes were felt to offer great infrastructure flexibility, in which the spirit of the brief would be embodied the building and activity would make the architecture. The scheme - with its proposed colonnades, sequence of exposed decks, loggias and unifying fingers of landscape - was felt to provide a fantastic opportunity to create an identity for the University and strengthen its reputation for educational innovation and excellence. The University is looking forward to working with the Grafton Architects’ team, the local community and the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames to develop the design proposals and realise the scheme.

Professor Julius Weinberg - Vice-Chancellor of the University - said: “Grafton have risen to the challenge and I really look forward to watching how this new building changes the way the University and the community around it interact.’’

Sean Woulfe - Director of Estates Delivery at the University added: - “The Grafton design will enable us to transform the learning experience and engage with the local community. The careful stepping of the building profile respects our neighbours while providing an array of interesting external spaces which will contribute to biodiversity and sustainability. Learning spaces are carefully considered, providing a range of options to the user. The excitement of the colonnades and external study gardens and landscaping will contribute to the activity and life of the town.’’

Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell - Directors of Grafton Architects - commented: - “Grafton Architects are delighted with their appointment to design this exciting new building for Kingston University. We found the educational vision, as expressed in the brief for the building, extremely progressive and inspirational. The building we designed was a direct response to this vision which called for openness, interaction, connection with the community of students and connection with the wider community of Kingston. The request for an ‘open university’ in the true sense of the word, combining a rich mix of activities ranging from performance, to exploratory teaching and learning, to quiet contemplative research, led us to the idea of an open three dimensional matrix of interacting volumes. We have made an active open edge to the building, integrating a colonnade to the street, cascading terraces and gardens, drawing the new landscaped civic space on Penrhyn Road, right up through the building.’’

"It was important to us at Kingston to demonstrate how serious we are about good design and to secure a world class architect with the capability to reflect our ambitions for this significant building. We wanted a quality building which will enable us to deliver our aspirations for educational innovation and community engagement as well as allowing us to set the sustainability agenda. The RIBA competition office supported us very effectively and the process delivered an excellent design." Sean Woulfe, Director of Estates Delivery, Kingston University of London
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