UCL and the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) have signed a partnership agreement and appointed masterplanners for the new UCL East Campus in the Olympic Park. The team is led by LDA Design, and comprises Nicholas Hare Associates (the architects currently designing UCL’s new student centre in Bloomsbury), Buro Happold (structural engineers), Momentum Transport Planning, EC Harris (cost consultant), Soundings (consultation consultants) and Studio Weave (also providing consultation support).
The masterplanning team, appointed on April 21st, will now commence working with UCL’s Campus Concept Group, Estates Delivery Team and Academic Challenge Panel, to respond to the brief drawn up by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, on the basis of five workshops held with the Campus Concept Group during the autumn. The brief underlines the importance of characteristics including flexibility, inclusivity, and connectedness in the new campus, but does not contain a precise list of spatial or functional qualities. It should be designed ‘for people with curious minds who wish to expand their horizons regardless of age, gender, religious, economic and cultural background’ and produce ‘a place which will encourage curiosity, and fundamentally reflect the DNA of UCL: quirky, non-conformist, effortlessly radical, progressive, creative, egalitarian, meritocratic, transformational’. The campus will host ‘research, co-production, innovation, learning for (and from) local communities, Londoners, UK and global citizens by creating social knowledge as much as scientific knowledge – ‘know how” as much as “know what”.’
The masterplanner will be expected to work with the vision embodied in the brief to produce proposals that can be adapted to accommodate the academic programme which will be generated over the next 6-9 months. The proposals will also need to be compatible with the agreement signed with LLDC and local planning constraints.
Work towards generating an academic programme kicked off this week with a university meeting convened by Prof David Price, Vice-Provost (Research) and acting Academic Director for UCL East. He reported that 63 proposals had so far been received from academic colleagues for potential activities on the site. From these, six examples were presented, followed by an open invitation to the university community to get together in a number of designated and bilateral discussion groups to develop those and other ideas into structured plans which could be formally presented to the Academic Programme Board in September for assessment.
The ideas presented included a multi-faceted proposal for Experimental Engineering which encompasses five research themes: Health and Wellbeing, Resilience, Future Manufacturing, Advanced Propulsion and Imaging. It proposes the creation of ‘Pamela’, a platform for life-size interactions between people and the environment of the park and various cross-faculty collaborative and educational activities. It also highlighted potential partnerships with TfL, the Home Office, and the V&A in the areas of sustainable transport research, imaging for security, and assistive technology design. Other engineering-based proposals included the Institute of Making Big, an open facility for exploring materials, processes and making, and Engineering Education, a teaching laboratory and joint enterprise with the Institute of Education, which would include incubator space to develop new models of engineering education working with partners in Further Education and industry.
Culture Lab, proposed by SLASH, is a space for cultural production including digital humanities and anthropology, which would comprise a set of flexible new spaces focused on design and making, heritage, material culture and object-based learning, performance and display. This would incorporate a new UCL Museum and Gallery, and a Centre for Heritage Futures, and also develop the idea of the ‘connected curriculum’ to include pre-foundation, CPD and short courses to appeal to different types of students, especially community-based, in more modular forms of engagement.
A Nature-Smart Cities Centre (proposed by SLMS) would promote collaborative research in how to embed nature and biodiversity in the urban sustainability narrative, with an emphasis on engaging with the Olympic Park as a habitat and urban ecosystem. This proposal has interest from potential partners including ZSL, Kew Gardens and the Natural History Museum. Finally, Future Heritage poposes two ‘heritage hubs’ (science and management), with potential for research partnership with Historic England (formerly English Heritage).
As Price stressed, proposals for activities at UCL East should be ‘open, dynamic and breaking conventional barriers between research, education, innovation, public engagement and collaboration.’ In particular, they are expected to demonstrate potential for local impact and two-way exchange between the university and its neighbours. The discussion groups to be convened over the summer months will be co-ordinated under the umbrella theme of ‘Making Futures’, focusing on the key areas of Design, Culture and Heritage, and Future Cities. They will be launched in the near future by the Academic Programme Board, which will co-ordinate and facilitate meetings.
But as Price said, this is only the first stage in a long-term process of academic development over many years. And, as the Bartlett’s Bob Shiel (Director, School of Architecture) commented from the floor, the key thing is to consider how UCL could ‘be transforming this part of London and do something that has not been considered yet.‘
For further information: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/olympic-park
SLASH: School of Laws, Arts and Humanities, and Social and Historical Sciences
SLMS: School of Life and Medical Sciences