Level 50, One Canada Square - UCL School of Management expansion

Moving into the penthouse level at One Canada Square, Canary Wharf means the heavily oversubscribed school can enrol more postgraduate students and host world-leading business teachers.

people in various groups in the student hub of level 50, a series of intermittent glass partitions provide a slight separation to the right hand side closest to the windows

9 August 2021

Project Overview

The School of Management had established itself at Level 38 of One Canada Square and had begun to develop it's educational identity in one of the world's leading junctures of finance, technology, education, and culture. However it required more space to teach more students, while suitable areas were few and far between. The expansion to Level 50 gives UCL School of Management a greater presence at the heart of London's financial sector, befitting a global business school, and an opportunity to develop the research identity established on Level 38 in 2018. The new facility will establish the UCL School of Management as a global business school, whose world-leading research, faculty and teaching facilities can compete with top-ranked business schools in the UK such as London Business School, Imperial, Cambridge and Oxford, and global business schools such as INSEAD, Harvard, Stanford and MIT.

The new space has been designed by architects Nicholas Hare in collaboration with the School's Director, Bert De Reyck. Teaching and culture at the school focuses on innovation, technology, analytics and entrepreneurship. Taking cues from start-up workspaces, academic workspaces and corporate environments, the facility at Level 50 has been purposely designed to encourage active collaboration and communication between students and faculty.


The view from Level 50; students and staff enjoy panoramic views of London

Starting from a totally open plan, the design of Level 50 provides a range of teaching and collaborative spaces, doubling the size of facilities available to the UCL School of Management. Ranging from the traditional 'Harvard-style' lecture theatre with a 108-student capacity in one corner to a flexible executive style suite in the other the layout gives students and faculty choice, about how they work, and adaptive facilities to suit their needs. In between the two principle teaching spaces of the lecture hall and executive suite is the Student Hub, which mixes informal seating with raised tables and chairs to create the 'heart of the village'. As the mid-point between the lecture theatre, executive suite, and board-style meeting rooms it is a natural meeting point and provides opportunities for old and new friends and colleagues to cross paths. Nearby in the generously-proportioned 'Street', which links the Student Hub to the faculty areas and the elevators, are sound-proofed booths with full internet connectivity and frosted glass. These spaces serve a dual purpose as both online-enabled workspaces suitable for solo work and video calls, or as quiet contemplative spaces for personal reflection.

This new space not only allows the school to accept more applicants for it's postgraduate Masters of Business Administration (MBA) courses, it creates a space where entrepreneurial and innovative people can collaborate. Empowered by the digitally-enabled video booths and lecture theatre, students and staff on site can connect with teachers and partners around the world. This enables hybrid and traditional ways of working to sit together in one space.

Sustainability, Access, and Inclusion

Manifesting success; smart design decisions throughout the floor ensure user independence and equity of experience.

Working at the top of one of Europe's tallest buildings provided a unique set of considerations for sustainability. The project team focussed in on the materials, energy, and smart design to ensure an inclusive experience as the best way to manifest sustainable, welcoming premises. The process began with a full audit of materials handed over to UCL and these were assessed for reusability to ensure no quality was lost, and to reduce the amount of shipments of new goods to and from site. This circular economy approach helped reduce waste and keep project expenditure down, with top quality stone flooring and architectural glazing and blinds retained in service. Each kilogram of materials saved meant fewer journeys from the top to the bottom of the tower which translated to energy saved. Where new materials were used such as timber, these were sourced from verified ethical and sustainable producers. The project was verified SKA Gold, the highest qualification in the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors building sustainability evaluation scheme.

Care and attention was given to various details of the user journey from the ground floor and from level 38. The journey-planning from Level 38 to 50 for students, staff, and visitors posed a challenge with no direct elevator between the two floors. UCL approached our neighbours Starling Bank on Level 39, who kindly allowed use of a route through their premises to ensure step-free access was available.

A keen emphasis was placed on clearly visible manifestations as part of the design of the signage, walls, and glass partitions to aid visual identification as well as pathfinding. The reception facilities have been designed to ensure they are fully inclusive, with multi-level worktop ensuring ease of use for every user, and space for wheelchair users to be welcomed to the same standard as standing guests. 

Read Sustainable UCL's profile of UCL at One Canada Square

Architects and Contractors
a 3D cutaway-style model of the refurbishment viewed from an oblique angle showing lecture theatre, student hub, and the central corridor

Central line: 'The Street' is an open access space through the middle of the level that links the faculty work spaces with the Student Hub.

Designs for expanding the UCL School of Management to Level 50 were drawn up by Nicholas Hare Architects who created the award winning UCL Student Centre and renovated the Student Centre's neighbouring Bloomsbury Theatre. Canary Wharf Contractors provided the specialist contracting services required for working in One Canada Square.



  • Building Awards 2022 'Best Refurbishment Project', Shortlisted 
  • BCO Awards 2017, Best Fit Out of Workplace: Finalist
  • New London Awards 2017, Workplaces: Shortlisted