Provost's View: Transforming UCL - from the New Student Centre to UCL East
4 May 2016
I was delighted to welcome Jonathan Taylor, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank, to UCL last week in order to sign off on a £280m loan, the largest sum ever lent by the bank to a university.
The loan will be used to fund developments including the New Student Centre, 22 Gordon Street and the UCL East campus, and I wanted to take the chance to update you on what we currently are doing to develop our estate.
Our Transforming UCL programme continues to move ahead in creating sustainable spaces that meet UCL's world-class aspirations and commitment to excellence and innovation. It is hard to miss the scale of activity across the Bloomsbury campus and we are also progressing the planning for our new UCL East campus at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford.
Over a 10-year period, we will be investing £1.25 billion to develop new space and improved facilities to support the delivery of world-class teaching and research. As detailed in our 20-year strategy, UCL 2034, we want to secure our future for decades and centuries to come.
The New Student Centre
The New Student Centre sits at the heart of the vision to make our university the most exciting in the world at which to study and work. You may have noticed that construction has already started, next to the Bloomsbury Theatre, with completion targeted for autumn 2018.
Built across two underground floors and four floors above ground level, and a roof terrace, students will have access to 1,000 study spaces and a new café as well as IT clusters. The centre will harness the latest in sustainable and environmentally friendly technologies and be our benchmark of excellence for all future projects with 400 sq metres of photovoltaics or electric solar panels on the roof, a ground source heat pump to cool the building in the summer, and automatic windows to naturally ventilate the building in the spring and autumn.
22 Gordon Street
The redevelopment of 22 Gordon Street (formally Wates House) is a clear example of some of the challenges we face on our Bloomsbury campus. The building opened forty years ago and was designed to house the 380 students and 90 staff who made up the Bartlett School of Architecture. With 2,300 students and staff in a faculty spread across eight buildings, the school will now have a modern home which will double the amount of teaching and research space available to the school, meaning that every student will have access to a desk. There is more studio and breakout space, along with formal and informal exhibition spaces at ground floor level, a new staircase, a re-imagined entrance and a new coffee bar. A seven-storey extension and an additional floor will offer superb views of London to provide an environment that is very much in keeping with the standard of architectural education and research happening inside the building.
Works to Wilkins Terrace continue and when completed will transform the existing area outside the North Cloisters into a social and events space. The completed terrace will provide a high-quality open space for different types of events including student fairs, fashion shows, exhibitions, degree shows and award ceremonies as well as being used as a performance space and venue for formal receptions. It will also lead to a newly refurbished and extended Lower Refectory, all opening towards the end of the year.
Faculty of Laws
We are investing in developing the Faculty of Laws by refurbishing the heritage-listed Bentham House whilst also creating new space by modernising and extending the Gideon Schreier Wing. Links will be created between the two buildings to improve accessibility and provide a high-quality environment for teaching and learning. The building will feature a new reception area leading to a social hub and café for the faculty's students, staff and visitors, with adjoining teaching and event spaces. The building will also feature a range of brand new features including student and staff common rooms, offices, seminar and tutorial rooms, quiet study areas, a lecture theatre, and a dedicated study suite for postgraduate research students.
While we continue to refurbish and redevelop our iconic buildings, we are also aware that further growth within Bloomsbury is difficult. This is what has led us to developing plans for the UCL East campus at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Our masterplan for the site continues to take shape and we are working towards opening the first phase of the new campus during the 2019/20 academic year. The unique, 11-acre campus will provide the environment for world-leading research, education, entrepreneurship and innovation and will contribute to the Olympic legacy and the regeneration of East London.
We are continuing to add further projects to the Transforming UCL programme - we've recently signed contracts at the Kathleen Lonsdale Building for a phased refurbishment that will provide improved teaching, research and social learning spaces throughout for Earth Sciences, Physics, Astronomy and Chemistry. We have also signed contracts on development plans for the Courtauld Building, involving a comprehensive remodel to create a new home for the Medical Research Council's (MRC) Prion Unit and at Charles Bell House to accommodate the Division of Surgery, Division of Biomedical Engineering and Radiography to form a new Institute of Image Directed Therapy.
Plans over the summer
Transforming UCL is more than just the big, highly visible projects. Much of the work undertaken by the estates team is to improve individual teaching spaces, repair or replace essential building infrastructure and ensure that our buildings are safe and secure. Over the next five months, the Estates team will be carrying out a series of improvements to many buildings including fire escape and exhaust ventilation compliance works, lift and toilet refurbishments, and internal and external decorations. Further work will take place to maintain heating and electrical systems within central campus buildings, whilst ensuring the lowest possible carbon impact. Investment is also being made on refrigerant-gas, water hygiene and asbestos compliance and campus-wide security systems to ensure our buildings are secure and continue to be safe. In addition we will be using the summer period to invest around £5 million in improvements to ten student halls of residences.
My final thoughts go to you - to our staff and students and to everyone in UCL Estates who is making all this happen. Thank you for your hard work and commitment and thank you to everyone for your forbearance as we tackle this most difficult and, at times, contentious of problems that must be resolved if we are to deliver our UCL 2034 strategy. As some of these projects near completion, you will witness the beginning of what I believe will be the long-term transformation of UCL as a leading, world-class institution.
As we continue to make progress I will endeavour to keep you up to date and provide you with new information when we have major milestones to report. In the meantime if you would like further information, please visit the Transforming UCL website.
Images, from top to bottom:
1) Visualisation of New Student Centre and the Japanese Garden
2) Visualisation of 22 Gordon Street