Provost's View: UCL Bartlett and how we can help our faculties to realise their ambitions
2 November 2016
When I accepted the role as President and Provost at UCL, I was excited to try to help enable the ambition of faculties and departments that wanted to push forward at pace.
UCL is a truly unique university. This is partly because of the interesting way that it was founded, the principles that have informed its development and the fact that it is in London and so is an integral part of urban culture in our world-class city.
But mostly, it is because it has so many departments and faculties that are world-leading and visionary, such as the UCL Institute of Education, UCL Brain Sciences and UCL Bartlett among many others.
In the summer before I took up this post, I was invited to the UCL Bartlett Summer Show. One look persuaded me that, at UCL, there was something incredibly special. This was a celebration of student work of amazing inventiveness and creativity. I have been to every show since then - and not only because they throw a good party. It is always an inspiring evening seeing the outstanding work of such talented students.
When I arrived officially at UCL, I went to visit departments and faculties and could hardly believe it when I was shown around Wates House - then the home of UCL Bartlett School of Architecture (BSA). Was this cramped and leaking 1970s block really where all that creativity came from?
It turned out that the Dean was looking for my support for a project to rebuild and extend the building. Three years on, and 22 Gordon Street, as it is now to be known, is almost complete.
UCL Bartlett has been instrumental in embodying the Transforming UCL strategy and 22 Gordon Street (formally Wates House) will be the first major redevelopment project to be completed on the Bloomsbury campus, since I arrived just over three years ago. It is an exciting moment, for sure.
The project started in 2012 and is due to finish in a few weeks, with an official opening by Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal, in December. It is also an exemplar of our sustainable estate in the recent 2034 progress review.
To create 22 Gordon Street, the project team stripped back Wates House and gave it a deep retrofit, doubling the usable space for the School of Architecture.
To enable such significant work to take place, the project team refurbished a warehouse at 132/140 Hampstead Road as a temporary home for the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture (BSA), while also relocating the faculty library to Central House and creating a new home for UCL Bartlett School of Planning there too.
For several years, UCL Bartlett, alongside UCL Engineering, has also been actively pursuing a 'factory' experiment space in London to do large-scale design, research and fabrication work that couldn't be accommodated in Bloomsbury.
UCL's new space at Here East is the culmination of this search and we have taken a 20-year lease on a unit there. This takes us onto the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park now - ahead of UCL East opening in 2020/21 - with students starting on this new site in September 2017.
Here East is London's home of making and the 5,500 m2 unit will provide an expansion for UCL Bartlett's Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering (IEDE), Institute for Sustainable Heritage (ISH) and its School of Architecture.
For UCL Engineering, it provides more research space for UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (CEGE) and UCL Computer Science, while providing a home to UCL Robotics and the UK Centre for Moisture in Buildings.
A number of new programmes will be offered from the site, including a new joint MEng programme in Engineering and Architectural Design, which is being delivered by BSA, CEGE and IEDE.
UCL Bartlett will also be opening the Real Estate Institute (REI) in an additional space directly above the large factory space and this will focus on executive education.
The institute will look at the 'intangibles' - such as design, heritage, sustainability or urban place-making - that modern developments often tend to overlook and draw on expertise across the faculty, UCL and beyond to reframe the way that the development industry values these aspects for the public good.
The main Here East unit will focus on teaching, learning and research space. The fit-out will include a 300-seat auditorium, an event/exhibition space and studio space while housing numerous chambers for research and a large-scale area for robotics.
The REI will have two Harvard-style auditoriums, seminar rooms and breakout space. The two parts of the site will be interconnected to highlight the interdisciplinary nature of the work going on in both spaces.
UCL Bartlett has worked closely with UCL's Sustainability team to ensure that the main Here East fit-out meets the required Ska sustainability criteria. The unit will be fitted out to Ska 'Office' Gold standard and REI's fit-out has been chosen as the perfect opportunity to pilot the newly launched Ska for Higher Education sustainability scheme, which UCL played a key role in developing.
These projects ensure UCL's first venture at the Olympic Park will be done with complete sustainability in mind.
New partners on our doorstep
From our new site at Here East, we will start to form new connections with our neighbours, who include, London Loughborough, BT Sport and Wayne McGregor Dance Studios, while also using it as a hub for UCL's outreach and widening participation work within the local community.
All these collaborations will help inform and answer real world questions and it will break down the barriers between teaching, research, enterprise and public engagement.
Inspiring students and staff to think big, having the access to equipment and dedicated areas to work, will have a positive impact on our student experience, research outputs and will put into practice the collaborative teaching and research that will also be at the heart of UCL East.
UCL's Bloomsbury estate has gone beyond its maximum capacity and, as I've said before, not everyone has suitable accommodation, which is unacceptable. Yet, in spite of these constraints, we are still able to produce world-class research and educate the next generation who will change the world.
Tom Noonan, a UCL Bartlett School of Architecture alumnus, is a great example of this: graduating from his Master's in Architecture with a Distinction in 2010, he joined Hawkins\Brown, the architects who have worked on 22 Gordon Street, 132/140 Hampstead Road and both UCL's space at Here East and the wider Here East estate.
In doing so, Tom has taken what he has learned at UCL and is using it to shape our estate to inspire the next generation of students and staff.
Transforming UCL is looking at UCL's estate as a whole, across London, and is in no way a perfect solution to our limitations in central London. Student experience, numbers and the way that teaching is delivered will change and our estate requires continual development to ensure that we keep on top of this.
The ambitions of our faculties and departments won't get any smaller either, so this further emphasises why the Campaign for UCL is important.
We need to reinvest in our estate and welcome alumni to help shape the future of the university. They, and our estate, are UCL's legacy.
Professor Michael Arthur
President & Provost
All images and the CGI video have been supplied for one-off use in the Provost's View and may not be reproduced in any other publication or exhibition, or on any website without prior permission from Hawkins\Brown.