Universities as Regenerators | Summary, slides + pictures

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As university development programmes grow more ambitious to house an increasing variety of facilities, this special briefing event looked at the power of universities to act as key regenerators in our cities.

Morgan Sindall logoSponsored by Morgan Sindall and held in the Manchester Metropolitan School of Art, the event spotlighted some of the most significant projects underway in the North West, and saw a discussion around issues such as funding, procurement processes, and Brexit pressures on international staff and students.

See below for summary, slides + pictures

Two lead architects gave updates on large-scale developments for university clients: Patrick Arends of Mecanoo on the £350m Manchester Engineering Campus for the University of Manchester, and Sue Emms of BDP for the Copperas Hill redevelopment for Liverpool John Moores University. Despite being in different cities, the projects demonstrated that universities are working to similar priorities. Both schemes are outward-facing, delivering efficiencies through the consolidation of a variety of uses into one space, and creating a landmark building to advertise the universities’ brand and expertise.

Similarly, the estate directors for the two largest Manchester universities outlined significant investment programmes, both focused on ensuring quality and value for their students, who now pay more than ever for their time at university.

Panel: Ian McManus, Manchester Metropolitan University; Diana Hampson, University of Manchester; Paul Hadaway, Empiric Student Property

Panel: Ian McManus, Manchester Metropolitan University; Diana Hampson, University of Manchester; Paul Hadaway, Empiric Student Property

Diana Hampson, director of estates at University of Manchester, is overseeing a £1bn development plan, which so far has encompassed improvements to cultural institutions such as the Whitworth Art Gallery, and includes the construction of scientific research facilities such as the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre and Sir Henry Royce Institute.

Manchester Metropolitan University’s estates director Ian McManus described plans for the diversification of the university’s Oxford Road portfolio through the introduction of new arts, media and sports facilities, as well as public realm improvements. He revealed that feasibility work was underway for a number of ambitious projects, including a flat iron tower designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley.

As the academic portfolio expands, so too does the housing requirements for students. Paul Hadaway, chief executive of Empiric Student Property, a publicly-listed Real Estate Investment Trust, said that increasingly the focus was on low cost housing to satisfy student need, as well as keeping up with the acquisition of central sites to ensure proximity to new city centre university campuses.

Hadaway identified the potential for student accommodation to be a key growth area, with Empiric targeting an increase in its £800m portfolio to a £3bn value in the next 10 years.

Project highlights at a glance – scroll down for photo gallery and link to slides

MECD project for University of Manchester, by Mecanoo

  • Biggest single investment by the University of £350m
  • Will include four engineering schools, two research institutes
  • Focus on permeability and access by community, includes internal street
  • On completion, will be home to 1,300 staff and 6,700 students
  • 900,000 sq ft
  • On end, would be taller than Beetham Tower

Copperas Hill redevelopment for Liverpool John Moores University, by BDP

  • Designed as a gateway project, bringing the university brand into the heart of the city
  • Act as interface between university and civic areas
  • Described by Emms as an “introverted and brutal building, we’re turning it into a people place rather than designed for machines”
  • £100m development value
  • 355,000 sq ft
  • To house three libraries, teaching areas, sports facilities, student advice and careers centre

Manchester Metropolitan University, £250m development pipeline

  • £350m activity already delivered, including Birley Fields campus in Hulme
  • Consolidated seven campuses into two
  • £250m pipeline to 2026
  • Schemes include Mabel Tylecote building. Allies + Morrison appointed architect, demolition due by end of 2016 to make way for Arts & Media Building
  • £12m investment in public realm around Cavendish Street
  • Former Student Union, has appointed Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios to put together feasibility study, looking at building with massing to rival high-rise at Circle Square, including flats, office and lecture uses
  • Expansion of Science & Engineering site, extension out of Science Laboratory tower
  • Creation of International Screen School and University Sport Institute

University of Manchester, £1bn masterplan

Hampson said that the university controls £1bn income each year, non-profit so spends most of it.

Campus masterplan includes:

  • Alliance Manchester Business School
  • Engineering Campus
  • Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre
  • Sir Henry Royce Institute
  • Jodrell Bank
  • Manchester Museum
  • Fallowfield, Owens Park student accommodation, plans for 1,600 units
  • Green spaces, public realm described by Hampson as “the glue that holds our plan together”
  • North Campus, once vacated by the engineering schools, could be “next major opportunity for growth of city core”. Includes 500,000 sq ft of listed buildings, but also important proximity to London Road and HS2 development zone

To view the speaker presentations from the event visit http://www.slideshare.net/PlaceNorthWest

Click any image below to launch gallery

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I don’t think MECD could truly be described as either outward facing or landmark. It’s merely a big building designed to accommodate all of the engineering departments on one site. The university has, true to form, chosen expediency and cost effectiveness and thrown away a fantastic opportunity to create an authentic civic landmark that enhances the surrounding area and integrates properly with its context.

Sat in the centre of its site it fails to properly address a single corner, junction or either of the main arterial roads. Despite its vast bulk it will be fairly anonymous when complete and will blend in rather than stand confidently within the surrounding cityscape.

Because it has been shoehorned onto its site, it leaves little room for any meaningful public realm or to graft strong connections through to the Brunswick estate or Oxford Rd – the through route between Upper Brook Street and Oxford Road follows the line of a mains sewer and illustrates how the entire project has been shaped by a series of major compromises rather than by pursuing a compelling architectural and urban design vision.

I have no doubt the finished building will be efficient, facilitate collaboration better and be superficially impressive for a while but once the newness wears off we will be left with a £350m building that fails to deliver anything like the sense of place, identity and pride that the old campus did. In short, because of the university’s complacency, it will not drive wider benefits for the city or the uni’s student cohort that a properly considered plan could have achieved.

By Sir J Whitworth