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22 Gordon Street receives royal approval

By ucyow3c, on 22 December 2016


Written by Nathan Capstick, UCL Bartlett Faculty Communications Officer

Credit: Jack Hobhouse

Credit: Jack Hobhouse

With Christmas around the corner, it’s often easy for the celebrations to merge into one. The opening of 22 Gordon Street on Friday 16 December, however, was anything but your regular festive celebration.

In a day with talks, tours, a visit from royalty and an impressive cake, UCL Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment and its School of Architecture returned home.

The event itself had been a long time coming; everyone had for years acknowledged the irony that one of the best built environment faculties in the world was housed in, arguably, the worst building on campus.

When the faculty was given permission to replace the building’s windows in 2012, few imagined this would amount to stripping back the building to its skeleton to expand and refurbish it. Four years and 140,000 bricks later, 22 Gordon Street is reborn.

A royal opening
Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, the Chancellor of the University of London, was invited to officially open the building. Upon arrival, she was introduced to UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur and Euan Macdonald, lead architect and partner from Hawkins\Brown, on the project.

The tour aimed to show HRH how space has been increased in the building – both by adding 1.5m around the perimeter of each level, as well as adding an additional floor on top of the building.

She met people who have been integral to that process, including Professor Alan Penn, Dean of UCL Bartlett and Professor Bob Sheil, Director of the School of Architecture, who told her about the 175-year history of UCL Bartlett and the 42-year history of the building.

HRH Princess Anne © Richard Stonehouse

HRH Princess Anne © Richard Stonehouse

Other key people who were introduced included representatives from Hawkins\Brown (architects and design), Mace (construction management), Gilbert Ash (main contractor) and the UCL Estates team – the latter of whom had particularly large smiles on their faces, as 22 Gordon Street is the first building to open as part of the Transforming UCL programme.

Andrew Grainger, (Director of Estates), Justine Fletcher (Estates Strategy Manager) and Angela Clemo, (Capital Projects Delivery Manager) explained how the School of Architecture was rehoused in 140 Hampstead Road while construction took place and how this is the first step in a long journey to improve the experience of students in both Bloomsbury and east London.

Students old and new
With student experience at the heart of the strategy, it was appropriate that Her Royal Highness met with current students Kit Lee-Smith, Amy Kempa, Luke Topping, Emma Colthurst, Agostino Nickl and Ellie Sampson who exhibited and displayed their work.

This offered a preview of how 22 Gordon Street will act as a creative hub, with students utilising the increased space to apply the creativity and engineering knowledge that architecture requires.

Princess Anne with Agostino Nicki © Richard Stonehouse

HRH Princess Anne with Agostino Nicki © Richard Stonehouse

One of the most poignant moments was when Her Royal Highness met Jon Glenford, an alumnus who studied at UCL Bartlett during World War Two. He was delighted to share his experiences of his time as a student and the changes that the faculty has undergone.

As the official opening drew to a close, Professor Michael Arthur spoke of how this is the first of many improvements for UCL: “We are investing £1.2 billion into our estate and if all our buildings look like this, I’ll be very proud. It’s never easy taking a building that is embedded into the very fabric of UCL and transforming it – while being respectful to the surrounding buildings – but the entire project team has done an incredible job.

“UCL Bartlett have been one of the most ambitious faculties at UCL and, with 22 Gordon Street opening today and Here East in 2017, it just proves how valuable our built environment faculty is in being an innovator for us.”

As the Princess addressed the guests, one thing that appeared to have made a lasting impression upon her while unveiling her commemorative plaque (made by the School of Architecture in their studios at 140 Hampstead Road) was the flexibility of the building in truly catering for staff and students’ needs.

As the celebrations continued with a lunch and evening receptions, everyone realised how many people had contributed so much to this project – a project to transform a building that the faculty had outgrown into one in which it can continue to flourish.

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