UCL Student Centre

Designed to be the home of UCL students for the next century, the Student Centre embraces traditional and new ways of working. It's built to be adapted to a world that is certain to change.

the front entrance of the UCL Student Centre on Gordan Street

25 June 2021

Project Overview

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From 'bombsite' to 'site for students'; the vision and development of the Student Centre from World War 2 to the present day.

Located on Gordon Street in the heart of UCL's prestigious central campus, the new Student Centre provides 1,100 study spaces, with settings ranging from quiet study to collaborative areas. It provides students choice in how they work, discover, and learn for generations to come. Built from durable, high quality materials, with large reconfigurable spaces; UCL designed the Student Centre to be in the service of students for the next century.

The new Student Centre has eight floors of study areas and other facilities, including;

  • 1,100 new study spaces - with 100 spaces added since opening.
  • New landscaping, roof terrace and public space - the Japanese Garden connects the Wilkins Building to an entrance into the centre.
  • Quiet contemplation rooms.
  • Student Hub - students can seek information and support on their student finance and course administration.
  • IT clusters mean students can log on to desktops and travel to campus without their laptop.
  • Cafe offering freshly prepared food and a vending machine full of student favourites.

The vision and design of the centre was developed over three years of extensive consultation with more than 1,000 students, including focus groups and surveys. Student Centres at Universities and colleges across the UK were studied by the architects Nicholas Hare to see different approaches to creating a student centre.


The Centre is designed as a 'one-stop' location which houses UCL’s Student Enquiries and Student Wellbeing Centres, a drop-in services to seek advice on disability, mental health, and wellbeing issues. Students are able to meet friends, study, and talk to the university about their course and finance in one location. The core of the building is the broad, twisting central staircase which connects all eight floors and allows natural light into the main atrium throughout the day. The central connection provided by the staircase encourages chance encounters of friends and colleagues reinforcing the social dynamic of the building.

The Student Centre has several different spaces which offer a diversity of experience to students. Each floor split over a main level and a mezzanine level on the opposite side of the building, and the design has created both open and sheltered spaces throughout the floors. On the ground floor the tiered-seating adjacent steps to the mezzanine creates a casual hang-out space that can be readily adapted for events as an auditorium or display space. Two floors above are rows of desks for silent individual study, with the nearby cafe and rooftop garden providing room to take a break. The entrance from the mezzanine level creates a connection that runs east-west through campus from Gordon Street to Gower Street, which is step-free and open to the public. With an entrance on the lower ground floor, this pathway also branches to the Lower Refectory and Bloomsbury Theatre, which opened in 2018 and 2019. Staff and students can reach the lecture halls, laboratories, and cafes on Malet Place and the South Quad.

Sustainability, Access, and Inclusion

 © Matt Clayton / © UCL Digital Media 

The centre has set a benchmark of excellence for all future UCL development projects, and is one of only 105 buildings in-use around the world to be awarded BREEAM 'Outstanding' (as of July 2021). Going well beyond regulatory and planning requirements the building has attained the highest possible levels of environmental performance, which makes for an exceptional user experience. The high quality design is responsive to change with flexible spaces and integrates the latest sustainable technologies.

The sustainable features include:

  • 'Passive first' approach to design based on highly efficient building fabric which helps to regulate temperature and minimise energy use
  • Approximately 250m2 of photovoltaics (electric solar panels) on the roof – and stretching across to the adjacent Bloomsbury Theatre -saving 73.7 barrels of oil each year!
  • A ground source heat pump to cool the building in the summer and warm in the winter
  • Efficient sanitary fittings that reduce water consumption by more than 50% compared to equivalent buildings
  • Bicycle lockers to encourage sustainable travel, with on site showers
  • A biodiverse green sedum roof supports a range of native species and enhance the microclimate. 

The Student Centre's positive impact on the climate

Building Performance in the First Year

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'Lean, clean, green': James Hepburn explains how the UCL Student Centre keeps students cool during the hottest part of the year with mixed-mode ventilation that responds automatically to internal temperature.

UCL has been monitoring building performance closely since the building opened. The performance of the building is critical to an excellent experience for the students who use this as a home away from home whilst on campus. The project team who created and run the building shared findings with the Higher Education Development Quality Forum in February 2019. The video abbove is an excerpt from this presentation which covered the history of the project, the design, construction, building performance, and user experience.

Architects and Contractors

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Time flies: watch the construction of the student centre from demolition up to the first walk through the building

Nicholas Hare Architects designed the building after a three-year collaborative process with students and staff at UCL, and research into the successes and challenges faced by other student centres in the higher and further education sectors. The construction of the building was undertaken by Mace Dragados consortium.


The UCL Student Centre has been widely acclaimed internationally and in the UK for it's outstanding vision and the excellence of its design and construction. 


  • Winner: Education Estates Awards, Project of the Year (Colleges & Universities)
  • Winner: Education Estates Awards, Student Experience
  • Overall Winner: Schueco Excellence Awards
  • Winner: Schueco Excellence Awards, Education Building
  • Winner: Civic Trust Awards
  • Winner: AJ Architecture Awards, Higher Education
  • Winner: LUX Awards, Office, Education & Healthcare Lighting
  • Winner: Building Awards, Building Performance
  • Winner: RIBA London Award 
  • Winner: ICE Judges inspiration Award
  • Winner: Prix Versailles World Awards - Campuses, Special Prize - Interior
  • Highly Commended: BREEAM Awards
  • Highly Commended: Concrete Society Awards


  • Shortlisted: NLA Awards Sustainability Prize
  • Shortlisted: NLA Awards Best Education Project
  • Shortlisted: Building Awards, Project of the Year
  • Shortlisted: Selwyn Goldsmith Award for Universal Design, Civic Trust Awards