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University of Stirling, Campus Central

University of Stirling, Campus Central

Key Facts

Client

University of Stirling

Location

Airthrey Campus, University of Stirling

Internal Floor Area

Refurbishment - 2435m2 | New Extension - 3070m2

Completion

November 2021

Landmark redevelopment transforming the social core of the University

Project Info

Campus Central demonstrates the University’s commitment to delivering an exceptional student experience, improving connectivity across the campus whilst encouraging collaboration and engagement among the academic and wider community.

The atrium refurbishment offers a much-improved retail and catering experience to better serve the University’s diverse, global community of staff, students and visitors.

A new gateway to the campus, the extension provides a vibrant learning environment with collaborative research spaces interspersed with the Student Service Hub, Institute for Advanced Studies and a welcoming new box office to the Macrobert Arts Centre.

The pedestrianisation of Queen’s Court enhances the natural landscape setting, creating an outdoor gathering space at the heart of the campus.

City & Land

Context

Located at the heart of the University’s spectacular Airthrey Campus, the proposals were inspired by the geography of the setting at the edge of the Carse of Stirling, whilst addressing the specific conditions of the site and wider masterplan ambitions.

The aspiration was to improve the entrance setting of Queens Court, allowing the life and activity of the new building and atrium to spill out into a pedestrian-friendly environment that can flexibly accommodate a range of uses throughout the year. The basis of the strategy frees-up Queens Court from all traffic, relocating bus stops and a new transport hub at strategic locations to access the wider campus.

Raeburn Farquhar Bowen’s design for the landscape focuses on creating a clear welcome into the heart of the University, providing external gathering and seating spaces that encourage social life, legibility in way-finding as well as beauty and sensory delight.

Sketch extract from the University Masterplan
Sketch extract from the University Masterplan
Education

Collaborative Research Environment

Vital to the brief was an aspiration to connect different members of the University community and improve their means to communicate.

The project explores new types of social learning spaces, radically different from what the University have been previously able to offer, reflecting the changing ways in which students work and collaborate.

The new extension provides a home for the Institute of Advanced Studies, showcasing the University’s postgraduate research as well as the Student Services Hub, creating a flexible environment with a variety of settings to help the University support students and staff, accommodating meaningful interaction and somewhere to sensitively share advice.

Complementing the academic and research-oriented facilities, the project seeks to knit together the Student Union, University Library, Chaplaincy and Macrobert Arts Centre, whilst reinvigorating the commercial activity enhancing the overall experience.

Design Approach – Adaptive Reuse of the Existing Atrium & Study Area

Referencing the meandering River Forth that bisects the nearby Ochil and Campsie Hills, the design concept envisages a valley, the University Library to the north-west and Macrobert Arts Centre to the east forming the valley edges, framing the movement and life of the University whilst creating a spine that extends from Queen’s Court through to the refurbished study area and Airthrey Loch.

The refurbishment of the atrium, study area and retail concourse provided an opportunity to re-imagine the incoherent and down-at-heel existing spaces to create a more legible, engaging, and comfortable environment, intended to connect seamlessly with the new extension.

Isometric indicating extent of the refurbishment & new extension
Isometric indicating extent of the refurbishment & new extension

Informed by the original central courtyard that preceded the glazed rooflight installed to create the central atrium space in the late 1990s, our interventions at the heart of the atrium sought to frame this space and create more of an open room, reinforced by carefully considered furniture settings.

Utilising the inherent flexibility of the original 1970s steel framed structure to the study area enabled the space to be opened back-up, improving ventilation, daylight, and maximising views out across Airthrey Loch and the Ochil Hills beyond.

The existing shopfronts were also opened, removing the existing glazed screens, and generating a new rhythm of frontages with retractable shutters and reinforced by lightbox signage integrated into the thresholds of each unit.

Stripping back to the existing structure also afforded the flexibility to increase the extent of the main café and servery area, improving visual connectivity and working with 442 catering consultants to enhance the customer experience.

Design Approach – New Extension

The triangular geometry of the new extension is a pragmatic response to the site’s constraints, including the form of the adjacent late-Modernist buildings and a high-pressure water main that runs across Queen’s Court, requiring an eight-metre exclusion zone.

The resultant footprint and section make the most of the remaining wedge shape whilst working with the existing levels, tucking under the University Library’s flipped ziggurat form at the lower two storeys and cantilevering out at the top storey to maximise the usable floor area over three levels.

The extension’s west elevation provides a new civic entrance to the upper ground floor with a terrace overlooking the loch-side setting. The south elevation addresses the open courtyard of Queen’s Court, creating a new front door to the Macrobert Arts Centre, with the projecting bays to the top storey orientated to make the most of spectacular views south through the tree canopy towards the Wallace Monument on the horizon.

West approach view towards the University Library & Queens Court
West approach view towards the University Library & Queens Court

Drawing upon the expressive structures of the original late-Modernist buildings, the new extension has been designed to offer a flexible form, with a wide-spanning exposed in-situ concrete frame to the lower levels rising to meet an articulated glulam and CLT roof structure.

Dramatic top-lit voids are conceived in the spirit of gulleys or chasms, characteristic of river formation, bringing daylight deep into the plan. A sculpted feature staircase serves as a distinctive focal point connecting the floors, supplemented by a new lift.

The slot stair and rooflight
The slot stair and rooflight
The central feature stair in the New Extension
The central feature stair in the New Extension
View across the third floor towards the diamond rooflight
View across the third floor towards the diamond rooflight
Briefing

Briefing

A comprehensive consultation strategy was undertaken, working with Shaping Stakeholders to develop the aspirations for the project and review the relevant constraints within the context of the University’s vision for the wider masterplan. This included working with internal stakeholders throughout the University to develop the Vision, Functional Provision and Technical Requirements, in parallel with work engaging external stakeholders including Planning and Building Standards from the local council, Stirling Access Forum, Scottish Water and First Bus.

The University’s ambition for a highly flexible environment necessitated the development of a clear zoning strategy, characterising different spaces by drawing upon stakeholder feedback whilst responding to the specific technical and logistical requirements of the teaching, catering and commercial activities.

The project phasing, with works taking place whilst parts of the building were still occupied, required ongoing dialogue and briefing with key stakeholders, helping ensure all members of the University and wider community were aware of how the project was progressing up until completion. This was particularly critical during Covid-related restrictions.

Interiors & Furniture

The building’s structurally expressive interior of exposed in-situ concrete, glulam and cross laminated timber is complemented by a warm palette of natural materials including maple timber linings and wood wool acoustic panels.

Generous rooflights and large areas of solar controlled glazing create a bright, uplifting environment whilst framing views out to the surrounding landscape.

Alongside the natural landscape, the visual art, design and fashion of the early seventies has also influenced the choice of colours and textures to the interiors, including the acoustic wall and ceiling linings, decorative features and lighting.

These themes also influenced the loose furniture, which was critical in defining the variety of individual and group learning settings. Products were selected through an in-depth stakeholder consultation process. This included setting up a test-lab to determine the success of different settings within the space, strategically organised towards the completion of the first phase refurbishment works to inform the final choice of furniture throughout.

Dusk view of the New Extension across Queens Court
Dusk view of the New Extension across Queens Court

Testimonial

“Coming here at midday on the first day it opened and seeing it absolutely full of students with everyone saying 'it looks like its always been here' - that is a testimony to the design and build, and the way its fitted together.”

Leigh Sparks Deputy Principal for Education of Students and Professor of Retail Studies

“The building allows us to showcase teaching space that is equivalent to any other international University and attract the best researchers and teaching staff.”

Colin McNally Executive Director of Estates and Campus Services

Consultants

Project Manager: Gleeds
Structural Engineer: Woolgar Hunter
M&E Engineer: Harley Haddow
Fire Engineer: Buro Happold
Acoustic Consultant: Sandy Brown Associates
Landscape Architect: RaeburnFarquharBowen
Cost Consultant: Brownriggs
CDM Co-ordinator: Principal CDM & Safety Ltd
Contractor: Robertson
Photographer: Paul Zanre
Catering: 442