LJMU Art and Design Academy

2010 LJMU Art & Design Academy, Duckinfield Street, Liverpool

Architect: Rick Mather Architects

Client: Liverpool John Moores University

Contractor: Wates Construction

Structural engineer: Ramboll UK

Services engineer: Ramboll UK

Contract value: £24m

Date of completion: December 2008

Gross internal area: 118,000 sq ft, 11,000 sq m

The occupier, Martin Downie, director of the Liverpool School of Art and Design: The Art and Design Academy provides the perfect backdrop for our talented students, enabling us to showcase their creativity in spaces that are as inspirational as they are. Over 2,000 people attended the opening night of this year's Degree Shows and every inch of the Academy was used as a canvas for student projects. Its bespoke design and clean lines lends itself to projections, to large and small scale installations and it can even accommodate the catwalk for our fashion shows. Before we had to stage these shows in lots of venues; now we have one flexible space that can meet the needs of all our students. The Academy exemplifies the importance of good design in education.

The client, Liverpool John Moores University: Previously, the School of Art and Design had been based in three different buildings in the city centre, which all had very distinct characteristics. The architects were tasked with creating a design for the new development that would bring together the different disciplines studied in the separate buildings. LJMU wanted to maximise opportunities for social interaction between the departments and so the architects incorporated communal spaces on every floor and ensured that different aspects of the building were not walled off, encouraging interdisciplinary working.


The architects had detailed guidance on the specific elements required, such as studios, workshops and classrooms but they had to think about how to organise these components to facilitate new ways of working. All of the rooms have been designed to be as flexible as possible so that the areas can change functions easily.

The design also had to make sense of the geometry of the site, which runs parallel to the base of the Metropolitan Cathedral, with the Academy offering a visual complement to the Cathedral but also having its own memorable identity.

The judges: Walking into the building you get an immediate sense of activity: you look up, look down into the cafe, look either side and you are immediately struck by an atmosphere of creativity. It feels like you've arrived in a creative environment. On a very tricky sloping site the entrance and atrium are part of an entrance sequence that forms a new public space and link between the Art School and the Cathedral.

The building balances a robust simplicity that suits the demands for providing environments for creative activity with moments of more complex spatial arrangements in public areas such as the lobby, gallery space and lecture theatres.

The architects have given the students an enviable new environment that is both practical and inspiring.