Creating a university satellite in the iconic One Canada Square building.
When UCL’s School of Management decided to consolidate and relocate their facilities, they looked first to their home on the Bloomsbury campus. However, it quickly became apparent that the spaces available did not meet their aspirations. The idea of moving to Canary Wharf was suggested, and considering the excellent business links within the area, a deal was quickly struck for the 38th floor of One Canada Square. We were then tasked with creating a whole university satellite, complete with academic and pastoral services.
With this new location came the opportunity to express a more distinct identity – an important step in establishing the School’s global profile and attracting the best academic talent – and so we worked closely with brand consultants Studio Blackburn throughout the design process.
The School feels a particular synergy with the Canary Wharf community – its business focus providing an inspiration and opportunity for students to engage with the corporate world. With this is mind, we needed to create a space where business meets academia – breaking down corporate norms to provide a stimulating learning environment. The School’s Director, Bert De Reyck, drew up a wish list and we worked closely with his team and UCL’s estates department to establish their priorities and expectations.
Our design concept was inspired by an early conversation with the client group, where we discussed the idea of dividing the space into distinct zones serving the different aspects of the School’s work. These were nicknamed ‘villages’; offices and meeting spaces arranged around a central shared space that became known as the ‘village green’. These six villages are distributed around the edge of the floorplate, each defined by a particular colour and texture through the lighting, flooring and graphics to create sub-identities and assist with orientation.
The circulation between villages is key – it is as much a social space as a route connecting them. We wanted to encourage interaction at every opportunity to create a truly convivial environment, which manifested itself through a deliberate breaking of the geometry to create a number of incidental and informal spaces.
A hub space welcomes students on arrival and features informal seating to create a meeting place away from the villages. Two ‘Harvard-style’ lecture theatres sit either side of this and their intimate semi-circular format and tiered seating encourages interaction and discussion. Breakout niches are also integrated into the window bays at the rear to allow smaller group working. Throughout, materials, colour and texture have been used to clearly define space and to a level of sophistication that reflects the School’s aspirations.