UCL Alumni


Alumni stories: Architect James Eades draws on UCL experience to design new student centre

UCL's new Student Centre is set to radically change the UCL student experience, thanks to alum James Eades and the team at Nicholas Hare Architects.

Image of Student Centre

9 February 2019

The last available vacant space on UCL’s Bloomsbury campus has been unoccupied for over 75 years. When determining what to do with such a space, UCL decided to offer it over entirely to students – no books, no teaching spaces just a place for students to think, explore, collaborate, discover and challenge. 

The new Student Centre, part of the Transforming UCL programme, will fill an enormous need for dedicated student space. It will completely change the student experience.

Insight paves way to great design

James set out to solve two of the biggest problems he found as a UCL student – a lack of dedicated space to study and difficulty getting through into campus. The Student Centre will provide over 1,000 new study spaces and areas tailored to research, collaboration and peer learning. 

“It is going to offer all students a unique place to study in because there are many different sorts of spaces incorporated into the building,” said James. “It’s going to be a destination as well as a gateway. A place to go and meet people.”

A new path to the heart of campus

For anyone who has studied at UCL, you will recall the difficulty getting into the campus from Gordon Square. 

“Inherently I had an understanding of how important it was to have legible and accessible routes in and around campus, and that access from Gordon Street to the South Cloisters could be vastly improved,” says James. 

The site which the Student Centre now resides was vacant. Now, students and the public are able to walk from Gordon Street right through the building, up to the Japanese Garden and into to the South Cloisters – providing a new front door to UCL on Gordon Street. 

A unique opportunity

Located in central London, it’s not that often that students or alumni receive the opportunity to have such a profound impact on the physical space on campus. 

Professor Anthony Smith, Vice-Provost (Education & Student Affairs), said: “From the outset we wanted this building to show our commitment in four areas: to our students and their learning; to great design and construction; to sustainability and the environment; and to the public who can now find a way into UCL and be part of the extraordinary research and teaching that we do. A great team has delivered on all four and I am very proud of what they have achieved.  I hope it will inspire generations of students long into the future.”

And, how does it feel as an alumn to have your design take centre stage in student life and the UCL campus? “Thrilling,” says James. 

The Student Centre opens its doors to students on the 18 February and will be officially opened by UCL President and Provost Professor Michael Arthur on the 28 February. 

The Student Centre was supported by a generous group of UCL alumni and friends. Students and the new Student Centre are a priority project for the Its All Academic campaign – UCL’s most ambitious philanthropic and engagement campaign aiming to raise £600 million. 


Transforming UCL 
It's All Academic Campaign
Nicholas Hare Architects
The Bartlett School of Architecture