Brighton University Students Win National Prize

Posted April 29, 2015 at 4:17 pm in Awards, Design, Interiors, News
  • Student research showed a preference for more external social spaces on the site, so use of colour and murals has been a way to “bring the outside in”

A STATE-OF-THE-ART redesign of learning spaces by the University of Brighton has won the institution a top national prize, the inaugural Association of University Directors of Estates’ Impact Award. The winner, the social and informal learning space (SILS) project, draws on the university’s learning and teaching research through its Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning through Design (CETLD) and was designed by recent graduates from Interior Architecture department.

SILS developed the partnership between the university’s Estates and Facilities Department and Professor Anne Boddington, (former CETLD Director) under the umbrella of the SILS project which sought to analyse and re-purpose spaces across the university’s five campuses so that they might be more effectively deployed to support student and staff communities by providing attractive spaces within which to meet, to learn and to socialise.

The programme as a whole identified many small opportunities to distinguish and enhance the university’s environment through creative yet minimal transformations designed with the local users of the buildings – students and staff.

The flagship prototype space, in the Watts Building on the University’s Moulsecoomb campus in Lewes Road, Brighton, collected the ward at a gala evening held at Stirling Castle in Scotland. The award, designed to highlight exceptional achievements of universities and those who work in them, recognised the considerable impact made by innovative design developed by two recent graduates, Carly West and Tom Munson working with Project Manager Steven Jones.

The project was noted for the significant contribution it has made to combining spaces and brokering new working relationships between departments as well as creating a “transformative and social heart to the building” by offering a well-designed cost efficient modern space that has not only provided new facilities, informal seating and new areas for group work, studying, networking and socialising; a student-facing, student-run enquiry service; improved IT provision, display screens and enhanced Wi-Fi internet access among other features.

Opened in 2013, the Watts space, the first of a series of designs across the university, has had a notable impact on the social environment. The Director of Estate and Facilities Management, Mike Clark and the design team attended the awards ceremony and conference at Stirling University.

Following the event, Professor Boddington said: “I am truly delighted to see the team’s work recognised with this award, which demonstrates the value of good design and its significant impact in creating a responsive brief through listening and responding creatively to local user needs. It has created a distinctive sense of place that is inspiring, conducive to shared learning, welcoming for conversations and as somewhere to relax.”

Mike Clark, the University’s Director of Estate and Facilities Management, said: “This is the first of a series of projects to support how we use all our spaces, inside and out, in new ways such that we can reflect in built form the distinctive experience of being a member of the university’s learning community.”

The £600k project was drawn from the university’s Invest to Gain initiative to enhance premises and facilities across all five of its campuses in Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings.

by Caroline Simpson

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