A unique and innovative centre for interdisciplinary research, teaching and training in architectural, engineering, heritage and performance-based futures.
UCL at Here East is a centre for cross-disciplinary research and teaching, shared between various UCL’s departments, including the Bartlett School of Architecture, and Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering. The co-location of facilities offers UCL opportunities to develop new research, teaching and enterprise programmes, supported by an innovative, unique and flexible building.
The Bartlett and UCL’s Engineering Sciences Faculty lacked the space to undertake large scale fabrication, robotics and prototyping work within their Bloomsbury campus. UCL’s 6,200sqm site at Here East provides the opportunity for a unique co-location of these two faculties for the first time in UCL’s 200 year history, bringing together parts of the Bartlett School of Architecture, Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, Computer Science, The Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering, The Institute for Sustainable Heritage and The Bartlett Real Estate Institute under one roof.
The brief called for a facility which would support a diverse number of activities, from controlled laboratory work to design studios. A key part of the brief was the need for visibility across the entire facility to encourage collaboration and innovation between the various departments.
The big idea
Our design distributes an interconnected suite of learning and teaching environments throughout the space, providing the infrastructure for innovative research, teaching and performance activities. Central to this was establishing a front-of-house zone for human scale teaching and social spaces, and a back-of-house zone for technical and sensitive manufacturing, fabrication spaces and laboratory activities. These are separated by highly-specified partitions and glazed screens, ensuring environmental control, visibility and openness are maintained throughout.
At the heart of the project is the 300 person auditorium, which acts as a centrepiece for social, collaborative and multi-disciplinary learning. This is a multi-functional space for a lecture or performance, or a number of smaller groups across its variety of platforms and stages. On the first floor, two intimate 40-seat Harvard-style lecture theatres offer The Bartlett Real Estate Institute teaching spaces that encourage discussion and debate between the speaker and audience. These are co-located with a series of design studios, seminar rooms and office spaces which all take advantage of the limited amount of natural daylight available.
A hidden but crucial element of the design and construction of the project was to provide a ‘strong floor’ with capacity to support a steel rig that can allow structural and environmental testing of large-scale prototypes. This required excavation of a 120sqm area, the drilling of 56 new ‘mini-pile’ foundations, the reinstatement of a protective gas membrane and the casting of a new concrete slab, over double the thickness of the original slab. When used in conjunction with the surrounding workshops and labs, the ‘strong floor’ area enables UCL to utilise the large-volume space to undertake highly specialised and innovative manufacturing and testing.
The small detail
The interior design of UCL’s space is unified by bespoke timber ‘utility walls’. These functional joinery elements provide additional workspaces, private study booths, storage, display areas, and essential acoustic absorption across the space. The warm and tactile materiality contrasts the robust, industrial finishes of the workshops and fabrication zone.