UCL News


UCL unveils its new state-of-the-art Student Centre

18 February 2019

A new state-of the art Student Centre - dedicated to enhancing the student experience - has been unveiled by UCL in the heart of its Bloomsbury campus.

student centre

The £67.4 million multi-purpose Student Centre, located in the centre of London, provides 1,000 new study spaces, over eight levels, for UCL's 42,000-strong student community.  It has been designed to encourage new ways of collaborative and research-based learning. 

Centred around a spectacular atrium, the building includes features such as a new artwork by Turner Prize-winning artist Rachel Whiteread, a landscaped courtyard, a café and rooftop terrace with views across London. It is officially opening its doors to students and the general public on 18 February. 

Designed by Nicholas Hare Architects and built by Mace, the centre is a flagship for sustainability and will be one of the greenest student centres in the UK. It is on track to achieve BREEAM 'Outstanding', the highest measure of a building’s environmental, social and economic impact.  

A key focal point of the centre will be the walk-in Student Enquiries Centre and access to wellbeing advice and support through Student Support and Wellbeing. There is a multi-faith quiet contemplation room, a wellness room for meditation and dedicated consultation rooms that provide a calm and supportive space for students. 

The building will be available to students 24/7 for 365 days a year. Its 1,000 study spaces vary in character and size, creating different types of individual study and group collaboration settings.  

Students and the public will also have shared access to the ‘Japanese Garden’ courtyard - named after the ‘Choshu Five’, Japanese students who came to UCL some 150 years ago and went on to be some of the founders of modern Japan. 

There is also specially commissioned contemporary art, including a new sculpture by Turner Prize-winning artist Rachel Whiteread - alumna of UCL’s Slade School of Fine Art - and an innovative digital art installation by multidisciplinary art duo Thomson & Craighead. Large digitally printed artworks by UCL students have also been selected to feature in study rooms around the centre.  

Located between listed buildings in the Bloomsbury Conservation Area, the building exterior respects this heritage yet projects a modern, forward-looking image. The façade features boldly exposed reconstituted stone at lower levels and brickwork at upper storeys, with large areas of glass framed in bronze anodised aluminium.  

Transparency is a theme that runs throughout. Huge windows allow light to flood through, providing students with a bright and open environment in which to study. 

Throughout the building, materials are left in their natural state - acting both as a design feature and contributing to the thermal stability of the building.  

The Student Centre is designed to welcome members of the public who will be able to walk through the ground floor levels of the centre to the Japanese Garden and the Wilkins Building and main campus beyond.  

The high-profile and ambitious project is part of Transforming UCL - the largest capital programme in the University's history. It will see a substantial investment of over £1.25 billion over the next 10 years to refurbish and develop some of our most iconic buildings whilst also bringing forward new world-class buildings.   

Key sustainability and performance features include:

  • Anticipated BREEAM Outstanding rating – the highest possible level for environmental performance
  • High-quality design responsive to change with flexible spaces and integrated technology, and has been designed to utilise the latest sustainable technologies
  • Approximately 250m2 of photovoltaics or electric solar panels on the roof
  • 'Passive first' approach to design based on highly efficient building fabric which helps to regulate temperature and minimise energy use
  • Projected 35% reduction in building carbon emissions compared to Building Regulations requirements
  • A ground source heat pump provides low-carbon heating or cooling, depending on the season.
  • Windows which automatically open to naturally ventilate the building in the spring and autumn
  • Efficient sanitary fittings will reduce water consumption by more than 50% compared to equivalent buildings
  • Healthy and productive study spaces, optimising daylight, indoor air quality and providing a comfortable internal climate
  • Highly durable materials that help to minimise resource use associated with maintenance and repairs
  • Biodiversity enhancements include planting in the Japanese Garden and a green roof which will also have a positive influence on the microclimate

Professor Anthony Smith, Vice Provost (Education & Student Affairs), said: “From the outset we wanted this building to show our commitment in four areas: to our students and their learning; to great design and construction; to sustainability and the environment; and to the public who can now find a way into UCL and be part of the extraordinary research and teaching that we do. A great team has delivered on all four and I am very proud of what they have achieved. I hope it will inspire generations of students long into the future.”

James Eades, Partner at Nicholas Hare Architects and UCL alumnus, said: "It has been a real privilege to work on this landmark project with UCL, an experienced client with high expectations, on a sensitive site needing something special. The building transforms this part of campus, and brings outstanding environmental credentials to the creation of an inclusive and exciting workplace for students: a refined asset of real quality that should serve UCL long into the future."

Terry Spraggett, Mace’s Managing Director of Public Sector Construction, said: “It is always inspiring to work on projects that will have a transformative impact on the education and experience of so many students. This was always a challenging and ambitious scheme, and one where the client constantly pushed us to see if we could do more. The end result is a beautiful and high performing building that will redefine the student experience at UCL – and one that we’re very proud to have built on behalf of the university.” 




  • Nicholas Hare Architects (c) Alan Williams Photography

Media contact 

Natasha Downes

tel: +44 20 3108 3844

E: n.downes [at] ucl.ac.uk