Lower Mountjoy Teaching and Learning Centre

  • © Jack Hobhouse
  • © Jack Hobhouse
  • © Jack Hobhouse
  • © Jack Hobhouse
  • © Jack Hobhouse
  • © Jack Hobhouse
  • © Jack Hobhouse
  • © Jack Hobhouse
  • © Jack Hobhouse
  • © David Cadzow
  • © Jack Hobhouse
  • © Jack Hobhouse
  • © Kristen McCluskie
  • © Jack Hobhouse
  • © Kristen McCluskie
  • © Jack Hobhouse
  • © Jack Hobhouse
  • © Jack Hobhouse
  • © Jack Hobhouse

Application Type

Civic Trust Awards

Level of Award

Highly Commended

Region

North East

Local Authority Area

Durham

Information about this scheme

Continued growth in Durham University’s student numbers, allied to the relocation of students from its Stockton campus, created an influx of more than two thousand students into the city between 2017 and 2018. Central to the university’s masterplan was the creation of an enhanced teaching and learning facility that could support the increase in student numbers, enable the adoption of new pedagogies, and provide facilities that could be shared by all students, rather than being aligned to specific faculties or departments. Durham is an historic city and its UNESCO World Heritage Site, containing the cathedral and castle, exerts a strong influence over the university’s estate. The site chosen for the teaching and learning centre is situated on the edge of the city centre, adjacent to a conservation area and within view of the cathedral. In this highly sensitive location the incorporation of an 8,000m2 building presented a considerable challenge. Close collaboration with Durham County Council planners helped deliver a successful massing strategy. The building volume was broken down into an assembly of smaller repeated elements to relate more closely to the prevailing grain of the city. A three-storey module was established as the building block from which the centre was formed. Each module has two façade types: a ‘fenestrated’ façade generally on the long face, and a ‘gable’ façade to the short face. Each one is capped by an asymmetric pyramidal roof and central rooflight. Twelve of these modules, rotated and handed, create the plan layout and building volume. The dynamic roof profile not only delivers complexity and interest in the external form, it also creates a series of dramatic top-lit ceiling coffers to the upper-level open learning commons - a modern interpretation of the traditional reading room. The landscape strategy sought to extend and enhance the woodland character using the woodland edges to provide a ‘wrapping’ to the building. This has helped reduce the visual impact of the building and create a beautiful outlook from the teaching spaces through the treetops. The tree-lined character of South Road which the building faces onto, has been enhanced by the introduction of specimen trees within the front entrance plaza. Selective tree removal around the edges and the introduction of a new step-free pedestrian route has reconnected the site with the setting of the adjacent St Mary’s College. The new building has been embraced by the academic community. Its café and learning spaces have been heavily used from the outset, and demand to use its diverse teaching facilities has led to it quickly becoming the most popular venue on campus.

Credits

Architect

FaulknerBrowns Architects

Client

Durham University

Project Manager

Turner & Townsend

Main Contractor

Galliford Try

Architects - Technical Delivery

Space Architects

Quantity Surveyor

Turner & Townsend

Structural Engineer

Buro Happold

Services Engineer

Buro Happold

Structural Engineer

Cundall

Services Engineer

Cundall

Primary Use Class

Class D1c - Education