• Architecture
  • Education

Kathleen Lonsdale Building,



Project Details:

Rationalising and refurbishing a Grade II listed teaching facility in the heart of UCL's campus.

Client: University College London

Construction Value: £13m

Completion: 2018

Location: Camden


  • Education Estates Awards 2018, Refurbishment of the Year: Shortlisted

Images: Aidan Brown

Heritage context
Low energy use
Access for all
Education space
Workspace (office)
Renewables on site
Acoustic excellence
Health and wellbeing

Where we started

Completed in 1915, this substantial Grade II listed, five storey building on Gower Place was UCL’s first purpose-built chemistry facility, named after the University’s first female tenured professor, an accomplished crystallographer. However, over the years it had been adapted to suit the needs of different departments with only isolated areas of modification. As a result, the building had become somewhat fragmented, with complex circulation routes and spaces of contrasting quality and character. Considering the building’s scientific focus and the University’s status as providing world-leading research, many of the spaces also needed to be upgraded to meet the demands of modern teaching and learning environments.

The Grade II listed building sits within UCL’s sprawling Bloomsbury campus

Wherever possible, the original spaces and features have been restored, such as this grand entry foyer

As such, our brief was to refurbish the entire building – creating high quality, academic space for various departments within the UCL Faculty of Mathematical & Physical Sciences and completely co-locate the entire Earth Sciences Department for the first time in the University’s history. As well as academic facilities, we also needed to provide areas for students and staff to work and socialise together; all the while being sensitive to the complex heritage context.


The interior of the Kathleen Lonsdale Building has now been transformed to provide specialist laboratories, teaching rooms, research facilities and offices, supported by areas for socialising and group working. Notably, unique research carried out within the building necessitated technically complex briefs for various spaces, including several laboratories, and we liaised closely with the relevant scientists to design spaces that would support their work.

New lecture theatres provide space and facilities for teaching large groups

Our refurbishment works included new control systems for careful ventilation, such as fume cupboards

Throughout, we have created opportunities for small informal meetings and social interaction

Bespoke laboratories were the result of working closely with the department scientists

Enhanced hub spaces to be used by students and staff alike are found on each level

Bold graphics are used to invigorate spaces while hung acoustic panels conceal services

This renovation is rich in historical significance and scientifically transformative for our department. It brings enormous benefits for all; among these are new specialist teaching labs, social hubs for the students that are in close proximity to their Professors, and vastly improved and entirely new research laboratories.

Professor Lars Stixrude, Head of Department, UCL Earth Sciences

Wherever possible, the original spaces and features have been restored. The main period staircase, which connects four of the five floors, has been sensitively repaired and glazed bricks in the large post-doctorate research space have been revealed, acting as a reminder of the building’s history within which the new contemporary interior sits.

A key aspect has been the integration of the new building services within the context of the listed building. Although generally exposed, they are carefully integrated with the lighting and sit semi-concealed behind a ceiling plane of hung acoustic panels.

Glazed bricks in the large post-doctorate research space have been revealed and repaired

Accessibility and wayfinding issues have also been addressed and spaces rationalised to make them work more effectively, thus enhancing both the staff and student experience.

A key challenge was the need for the building to be in occupation whilst works were being carried out on site. The refurbishment was therefore phased over two years, with parts of the space in use throughout.

Following completion in April 2018, the Kathleen Lonsdale Building was formally re-opened by Sir David Attenborough, during an event at which a newly discovered plankton species was named in honour of the Blue Planet series.

Core team

Matthew Goulcher

Managing Director

Andy Jobling


Nicola Jaques


Rebekka Perkins

Senior Architect

Joseph Charman

Project Architect

Tom Greaves