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Transforming Bentham House

Find out more about the development of Bentham House, our alternative accommodation, and how the project will affect you

Bentham House artist's impression

We need to expand. In response to an ageing building, modern methods of learning, and a growing student and faculty body, we have a critical need for more and better quality space for teaching, research and professional services, as well as improved common and social areas.

In October 2014, UCL received planning approval and Listed Building Consent for a £18.5m redevelopment project from architects Levitt Bernstein to extend and enhance our historic home, Bentham House.

The building will be re-planned to create additional space, improving accessibility and integrating all existing parts of the Faculty, while maintaining and protecting our much-loved home for the future.

During the works to Bentham House, it will not be possible for the Faculty to occupy the building. From August 2015 until the project’s expected completion date in the 2017-18 academic year, UCL Laws will be based at alternative accommodation on the UCL Bloomsbury Campus, in nearby Bidborough House.

Introduction

During the Christmas holidays in 1965, the Faculty of Laws moved into Bentham House. As one of the oldest, as well as the largest, faculties at UCL, the new building provided our 35 members of staff and almost 500 students with valuable extra space.

35 years later, we were bursting at the seams of Bentham House, and in 2001 the Faculty took advantage of the opportunity to purchase neighbouring building, Hillel House. After renovations to the building’s upper floors, the Gideon Schreier Wing was completed in October 2001, and in 2011, following extensive works to drain the River Fleet’s waters from what is now the Denys Holland Lecture Theatre, the ground and basement floors were opened.

These crucial developments would not have been possible without the generosity and continuing support of our alumni, donors and sponsors, and we owe particular thanks to the late Sir Bernard Schreier for the Gideon Schreier Wing, to Vincent Cheung (LLB 1965) for the Denys Holland Lecture Theatre, and to Winston Chu (LLB, 1960) for the Cissy Chu Common room.

Today, our Faculty has 109 members of staff and over 1000 students. Alongside lectures and tutorials, we host a range of specialist research and pro bono initiatives at Bentham House, including the Bentham Project, the UCL Centre for Access to Justice, as well as numerous research centres, the student Law Society and the UK’s only Notarial Practice Course.

But it’s not just our students and staff who use Bentham House. Every day, we welcome legal professionals and members of the public to our events, which cover the full gamut of legal and regulatory issues and thinking.

UCL has also grown significantly too over the past ten years, and space across campus is limited. Our buildings are now at maximum occupancy, while access and navigation between Bentham House and the Gideon Schreier and the Graduate Wings can be challenging at the best of times. We have run out of room, and the space that we do have is fragmented and in serious need of attention.

In working to resolve these problems and create a building that is fit for purpose, architects Levitt Bernstein have designed a transformative £18.5m plan to connect our past with our future, creating an entity both singular and distinct in its parts. The proposed designs will protect and improve our much-loved Bentham House, providing:

  • A large reception area, linking directly to a bright and spacious central café and social hub, directly adjoining teaching and event spaces.
  • Better connections between the buildings on all upper floors.
  • Cutting-edge teaching and event spaces with greater capacity.
  • New student and staff common rooms.
  • New offices, meeting spaces and computer cluster rooms.
  • A specialist study suite for graduate research students.

The redevelopment work will take some time to complete, but the new Bentham House should see through us the next stage of the Faculty and UCL’s strategy to 2034 and beyond in grand style.

How will Bentham House change?

The project to develop Bentham House will mean we have extra space for teaching, research and support services, as well as new social and common areas for events and informal learning.

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The building will become easier to navigate and more accessible for wheelchair users. Bentham House will also incorporate green features including bio-diverse roofs with photovoltaic arrays, and in support of UCL’s sustainability agenda, the new building will achieve a ‘BREEAM Very Good’ rating.

New features include:

  • A large reception area, linking directly to a bright and spacious central café and social hub, directly adjoining teaching and event spaces.
  • Better connections between the buildings on all upper floors.
  • Cutting-edge teaching and event spaces with greater capacity.
  • New student and staff common rooms.
  • New offices, meeting spaces and computer cluster rooms.
  • A specialist study suite for graduate research students.

Alternative accommodation during the works

During the works, it will not be possible for the Faculty to remain at Bentham House, and UCL Laws will for this time be based in alternative accommodation in nearby Bidborough House.

Bidborough House is a modern seven-storey office building, formerly occupied by Camden Council. It is less than ten minutes walk from the main UCL campus and Bentham House, and is close to Kings Cross and St Pancras stations, the British Library, as well as the shops and cafes of Marchmont Street.

UCL Laws will occupy the ground floor and the majority of the first floor of the building. The other floors will be occupied by Professional Services teams from across UCL.

More information about Bidborough House can be found on our How to find us page.

Bentham House memories 

Members of UCL Laws have a strong sense of community, even long after graduating. Many alumni, now at the top of their professions, and former members of staff often ask after Bentham House and recount stories about their time studying and socialising there.

To share your memories of Bentham House please contact the UCL Laws communications team.

"During my time at UCL Laws, I particularly enjoyed my time in and around Bentham House.  From the sherry parties to Dr Christopher Allen’s Wigmorean charts (Evidence and Proof), it proved to be a warm and enriching environment and one that left me with many happy memories and the privilege of having been well educated in a particular field of learning." John Hennessy SC, UCL Laws alumnus
“I wanted to study at UCL due to its global environment, world-class research and outstanding reputation. Some of my best memories of my time studying at UCL is the lecture theatres in Bentham House, and their amazing atmosphere for learning.” Roberto Baumgarten Kuster, UCL Laws alumnus