Client: University of Bath
Location: Bath, UK
Status: University project
A multi-purpose hall building for the University of Bath, with a focus on being sensitive to context.
The site sits on a key triangle of greenery in arguably the second busiest area of the university apart from the central Parade. Heavy footfall occurs along the south edge of the site, between the bus arrival square, Chancellor’s Building, and student accommodation. The façade is a highly visible one, unobstructed except by trees to the east and north. The importance of the context heavily informs the proposed scheme, which opens primarily to the southern plaza and Chancellor’s Building in the west.
The aim of the scheme, aside from serving the brief requirements, was to strengthen the sense of place already associated with the plot. It is set to become a landmark structure demarcating the junction between the bustle of campus and the relative privacy of student accommodation. It sits at the midpoint between Chancellor’s Building, which lacks daylight and porosity to pedestrians, and the Lime Tree refectory, in which a canteen layout discourages ad-hoc dwelling and grab-and-go refreshments. It is this gap that the scheme aspires to fill with sensitive and functional design.
A plaza roof extends over the south and the west, offering shelter and leading visitors into the main and side entrances. The double-height glass façade serves multiple functions. In the day, when viewed from the exterior, it reflects the unobstructed sky and surroundings as conciliation for the once-open northward view that the building now obstructs. The transparency of the surface creates visual permeability, signalling the lobby as an inviting “indoor extension” of the plaza outside. On the interior, daylight is ample as a result. Excessive light is controlled with the generous roof overhang and a mezzanine walkway along the south-facing glazing.
Above: South elevation and section.
In contrast to the inviting and permeable front spaces, the main hall and all ancillary functions are tucked to the north and east. The hall structure supplements the row of existing lime trees as a privacy and noise shield for the residences beyond. The storage, kitchen and service spaces reach to the north where they are easily accessed from the service road.
The space to the west, facing the Chancellor’s Building, is not neglected. A side entrance is located on this façade, sheltered by an overhang which also confers protection to the footpath beyond. The single-storey side of the scheme is clad in wood and lends human scale to the area, balancing the comparatively towering height of Chancellor’s.
Above: West elevation and section.
The landscaping around the scheme converses with the existing grid created by neighbouring buildings, using tidy geometry in a friendly scale to merge the axes. Footpaths are based completely on pedestrian desirelines, ensuring that walking routes are unaffected, if not shortened, with the addition of the proposed scheme.
Conceptually, the building is envisioned as a massive hall volume flanked by protruding structure and governed by a rectilinear logic. Each function of the building sits on its own rectangle and is expressed on the exterior. Much of the structure is visible from the outside owing to the glass envelope. The result is a logical and structurally honest scheme, visually outstanding yet loyal to its function and the wider context.
GALLERY (click to enlarge)