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Wilkins Terrace

A new public square in the heart of UCL's Bloomsbury Campus, which veiled a service yard beneath a meeting place, and elevated a pathway through campus.

people in the Wilkins Terrace

9 August 2021

Project Overview

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Despite the scale of UCL’s estate in Bloomsbury, the University lacked good quality collegiate public realm. Through the UCL masterplan, an opportunity was identified to create a new piazza above an existing service yard. This retained the operational capacity while, making high quality external space for both staff and students. The Terrace was part of the University’s wider strategy to improve accessibility, and in particular, east-west movement across the campus.
 

It feels as though it's always been here...

"The success of this magical, elegant new space, conjured out of what was an old physics yard, is that it manages to feel new, contemporary and uplifting whilst being so sympathetic to the original architecture that it feels as though it’s always been here."
~ Professor Susan Collins, Director, Slade School of Fine Art 

Impact 

The project enclosed the service yard in an undercroft, while creating a new terrace split over two levels. The lower level serves the new Lower Refectory, which is linked by a lift and grand staircase that passes by the 'Donor Wall' art installation. The upper area provides a through way and meeting space where stepped seating is under a natural cover of climbing plants woven through a metal framework. The three-story facade rear orientation of the Bloomsbury Theatre built to Georgian proportions compliments the surrounding buildings which include the library, Lower Refectory, Department of Physics and Astronomy, and the Wilkins Building. The terrace is cloaked in Portland stone which matches the adjacent Wilkins Building and ensures the area will remain in top condition for years to come.
 

Sustainability, Inclusion, and Access

Images 1 & 5 ©Ben Blossom. Images 2-4 ©UCL Digital Media

Major improvements to building fabric using highly durable materials ensure a long life span with minimal maintenace. UCL installed energy monitoring systems with new efficient heating and cooling systems below the terrace to reduce energy consumption and boost occupant comfort. The terrace has been planted with grasses, shrubs, and wildflowers that creates a verdant border along the northern edge and a shaded, dry seating area in the summer. Upgrades to sanitary facilities have reduced water usage.

Ornamental trees have been woven through an organic frame to create a living, growing display, while the metal frames over the seating area support climbing plants. Increasing biodiversity and green space around campus is part of UCL's 'Wild Bloomsbury' commitment to creating 10,000m2 of new biodiverse space by 2024. Visit the 'ChangePossible' sustainability strategy for more information. The redevelopment of Wilkins Terrace has created a fantastic new public space with a step-free thoroughfare, and elevator enabling a change of levels. This redevelopment has given a boost to walking which supports the University’s wellbeing strategy ‘Wellbeing@UCL’.

Read more about how UCL designed a sustainable piazza

Architects and Contractors

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A strong foundation: watch the timelapse of the service yard being transformed into the Wilkins Terrace

Architects Levitt Bernstein worked with representatives to implement a design that created a space for the whole university. Portland Stone was provided by Szerelemy, BDP provided lighting services, IQ Projects provided the lift and architectural glazing, and construction was carried about by various contractors.

Awards

Wins

  • Civic Trust Awards 2019: Winner
  • Civic Trust Awards 2019, Selwyn Goldsmith Award for Universal Design: Regional Finalist
  • AJ Architecture Awards 2018, Landscape Architecture of the Year: Finalist
  • Natural Stone Awards 2018, Landscaping: Commended

Shortlisted

  • Camden Design Awards 2022, Shortlisted
  • RIBA Awards 2018, London: Shortlisted
  • New London Awards 2018, Public Spaces: Shortlisted
  • Lux Awards 2018, Hospitality, Leisure and Faith Project of the Year: Shortlisted
  • New London Awards 2014, Education: Shortlisted