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UCL Urban Lab publishes five case studies on university and community-led urban regeneration

By Clare Melhuish, on 5 October 2015

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UCL Urban Laboratory has recently launched five case studies in university and community-led urban regeneration, which explore the role of universities as actors in urban renewal processes, and the potential for communities to engage and take a lead in such processes. The case studies and introduction are the output of an 18-month research project, conducted by Dr Clare Melhuish, in parallel with the announcement and development of proposals by UCL to build a new campus in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford.

In March 2015, the Urban Laboratory published a summary of interim findings from the research. The case studies now provide detailed insights into the processes of visioning, communicating, and developing urban spatial development plans which many universities are undertaking, often in partnership with other urban and regional regeneration agencies, and as a stimulus and anchor for wider urban development. They include Queen’s Campus, Durham University in Stockton; the NorthWest Cambridge development by University of Cambridge; Newcastle University at Science Central; three US models – University of Pennsylvania, New York University, and Columbia University; and lastly Somerleyton Road in south London, a partnership between Lambeth Council, Brixton Green and Ovalhouse Theatre designed to promote a new model for community-owned affordable housing and social infrastructure.

Each case study is presented in the same format for comparative purposes, structured in five sections: historical and policy contexts; structures and processes; visions and narratives; translation into place; and a concluding section summarising key issues and learning points. They draw on a mix of bibliographic and archival research, interviews, site visits and observations, and photographic documentation, with a view to developing some qualitative insights pertaining to specific projects as well as identifying some overarching principles. The case studies are prefaced by an introductory essay which provides an overview on university development, and sets it in context with reference to some of the main shifts in urban regeneration and higher education policy and practice (see also Policy Milestones), while highlighting the international scope of university expansion within cities as an aspect of the global production of cities as ‘policy assemblages’ from elsewhere (McCann and Roy 2013).
Contact Dr Clare Melhuish: clare.melhuish@ucl.ac.uk
For other enquiries, contact Jordan Rowe: jordan.rowe@ucl.ac.uk

Do cities get the universities they deserve?

By Clare Melhuish, on 8 July 2015

Universities are drawing on new languages and imagery to project visions of their future identity: they are abandoning the bounded, campus-based model of academia in the past and becoming ‘living laboratories’, ‘urban extensions’, and ‘communiversities’, embedded in urban contexts and communities. The ‘Urban University’ conference in Northampton last week brought together a large number of speakers, myself included, to discuss the different manifestations that these visions are taking, and the ways in which universities are working with cities to ensure that benefits are reaped by the wider public.

Amongst these, Northampton University is currently in the process of relocating its existing campus onto a new site in the town’s Waterside Enterprise Zone, much closer to the town centre. As Stephen Boyes from the Borough Council explained, many medium-sized towns are working hard to become ‘vibrant, attractive destinations’ that visitors, residents, and businesses are drawn to, and universities (such as Northampton) willing to engage with their cities can have a significant impact in making that happen – while others, such as Loughborough and its ‘bubble’ (a campus designed, he claimed, to ensure that students have no need to leave it for the full three years of their degree courses), do not. So, do cities get the universities they deserve? And if not, who’s to blame?

David Marlow’s question was posed in the context of his own presentation on Warwick University which, as he candidly admitted, had failed to stimulate the city’s economy, despite its own success. Indeed, the university is currently setting up an inquiry to examine how the university might change in order to deliver on the widely accepted assumption that thriving universities bring economic and social benefits to urban centres in the knowledge era.

John Goddard has done much work, both as an academic and as Deputy Vice Chancellor of Newcastle University, responsible for its physical development for 10 years, to promote the idea of the engaged, ‘civic’, or ‘public’ university, which he expounded to delegates. However he suggested that despite the emergence of the transformative, responsive, and demand-driven ‘quadruple helix’ business model for universities (university, business, government and civil society), which is fundamentally place-based and has generated a great increase in social innovation, such values are also under threat. As he said, lack of local demand and supply for students, and a drive towards recruitment rather than widening participation could cast adrift the so-called ‘anchor institution’ (to cite the term promoted by the Work Foundation) in a sea of globalisation and ‘place-less power’, as it was later described by Robin Hambleton, Professor of City Leadership at University of West of England, Bristol.

Hambleton positioned universities as ‘the sleeping giants of place-based leadership’, which are just awakening. He pointed to the example of Portland State University in Portland Oregon, a leading green city in the US, which makes all its students study sustainable development before they can graduate in any subject. Wendy Cuiker from Ryerson University in Canada, highlighted the Ashoka Changemaker movement as a mechanism for institutionalising place-based social innovation within universities – like Ryerson and Northampton – evaluated and designated by Ashoka as ‘changemaker campuses’ (for a fee of around $20,000). Cristina Devecchi from Northampton University outlined a vision for such ‘changemaker universities’ based on five future trends in the delivery of learning. Firstly, it will need to cater to a much wider mix of age-groups, not solely focused on getting a degree and into employment, but acknowledging a diversity of motivations for study, and tailoring courses in blocks and models to meet different needs; secondly, it will be solution-focused, engaging with creative thinking even before the problem is identified; thirdly, it will embrace open systems with continuous access; fourthly it will have global extension and connectivity, while at the same time providing a personalised experience; and finally, it will be socially responsible, rather than utilitarian knowledge, shaped by notions of justice, morality and sustainability.

However Allan Cochrane (The Open University) warned the audience to be suspicious of the language of ‘missions’ when it comes to universities. As he said, universities are not essentially altruistic organisations, but respond to business drivers much like any other – indeed, they can be huge institutions, landowers and major developers which have a significant impact on local demographics, often with unintended consequences. And, as Michael Edwards from UCL pointed out, even the best-conceived intentions for university engagement with local place and communities can be thrown off-track by new pressures on unviersities to behave more like businesses and align themselves with particular channels of power, which need to be resisted.

So how can cities and universities ensure that they work together to achieve the best outcomes for urban populations without compromising universities’ integrity? According to Hambleton, there’s no formula for ‘best practice’ in this arena – it simply has to be discovered locally; while from Devecchi’s perspective, 20 years of evidence-based and practice-based research has failed to produce any viable generalisations that can be applied to solve this conundrum.

I would suggest  that case studies do have much to offer in terms of delivering specific comparative insights into university developments in particular locations, which provide the basis for some degree of generalisation – despite the infinite variations to be found in the conditions and circumstances in which institutions are embedded. But other proposals were presented by Henk Bouwman of the Academy of Urbanism, which set up the UniverCities initiative in 2007 to encourage alliances between universities and other local urban agencies, who suggested there could be value in deploying a set of narratives to frame (and generalise from) different settings for the delivery of place-responsive learning programmes; and Emma Read Källblad from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm’s OpenLab, who presented the Thinkspace Matrix – a tool for universities to map out different knowledge publics against on-site space provision and access, and check how they’re doing in terms of place-based engagement. A trio of speakers from Historic England demonstrated how universities in Derby and Lincoln have also capitalised on the acquisition or otherwise of built heritage landmarks to reinforce their participation and representation in local culture. Lorraine Farrelly, head of the new School of Architecture at Reading University, touched on the possibility that it might incorporate a new ‘Urban Room’ for the city, following the recommendations of the Farrell Review of Architecture and the Built Environment.

None of these tools and strategies can guarantee success, which also, as Cuiker earlier highlighted, depends on strong leadership. But they point to the increasing concern shared by universities and urban actors to establish areas of common ground, methodologies, and a shared perspective from which to go forward in addressing key issues around the persistence of social inequality and deprivation in the emerging knowledge society of the future.

The Urban University: universities as place-makers and agents of civic success in medium sized towns and cities, July 2nd and 3rd 2015, was part of the University Town Northampton Project (UTN) and supported by the University of Northampton, Northampton Borough Council, and Northampton County Council. The project is led by Sabine Coady Schaebitz, Director of the University’s Collaborative Centre for the Built Environment (CCBE).

UCL East: UCL appoints masterplanners and invites proposals for academic programme

By Clare Melhuish, on 8 May 2015

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.

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

Top London universities go on spending spree

By Clare Melhuish, on 27 March 2015

Reports in the Evening Standard yesterday raised the spectre of London’s ‘big four universities’ carving up the city in a competitive race to establish their pre-eminence through huge ‘land-grab’ developments (‘London’s big four universities go on £4bn “Premier League” spending spree’, 26th March). They came hard on the heels of the announcement of the new HEFCE research funding allocations in which Imperial College, UCL, and Kings benefited from significant increases, making UCL now the second most highly-funded institution for research income based on an impressive return to the REF – and the highest-funded overall (for teaching and research) at £171m. By contrast, some of London’s other higher education institutions outside the emerging so-called ‘Premier League’ – including London Metropolitan University, University of the Arts, and Goldsmiths – have suffered major grant losses (THES 26th March, ‘Winners and losers in HEFCE funding allocations’).

Simultaneously, Property Week announced today that ‘Aviva Investors is on the cusp of signing a £150m deal to forward-fund a huge White City office building aimed at science start-ups’ for Imperial College on its White City campus (Imperial West) (Mar 27th, Aviva wins Imperial College war). In ES, the Imperial West development is described by the university’s new president Professor Alice Gast, as a second ‘Albertopolis’ for London, with reference to the South Kensington museums site where Imperial’s existing campus is located (ES 26th March, ‘Imperial’s White City campus “will be the next Albertopolis”’) – but without any reference at all to the ‘Olimpicopolis’ cultural and education quarter in the Olympic Park, based on the same concept, which was allocated £141m of government funding last December. As the design competition brief for this project explained last year in similar terms, ‘The ‘Olympicopolis’ plan pays homage to the ambition and achievement of Albertopolis, which followed the 1851 Great Exhibition, and established a constellation of museums, universities and artistic, scientific and cultural organisations in Kensington’.

Olimpicopolis in East London will house not only the V&A, Sadlers Wells, the London College of Fashion, and branches of the Smithsonian and Guggenheim museums, but also UCL, one of Imperial’s main contenders in the big four league. Is London really going to have two Albertopolises and an Olimpicopolis vying for pre-eminence on its West–East axis? And if so, should we start to wonder how far these grand urban development gestures hold the city in their best interests, or whether they are essentially stadia for an increasingly intense game of higher education premier league football?

ES reports that ‘ “The new university funding system enables the top universities to grow away from others” (Professor Alan Smithers, University of Buckingham)’, and notes that ‘London has more top universities than any other city in the world’. Those institutions are ploughing huge amounts of money – an estimated £4bn (including £400m on the first phase of UCL East, £3bn on Imperial West, and £120m for LSE’s new Aldwych development) – into the redevelopment of large swathes of the city to meet their own space needs and upgrade facilities to attract the best students and staff from around the world. As quoted by the paper, Professor Gast is candid about her ambitions for Imperial West: ‘“We will become a hub of influence and impact”’, echoing equally assured aspirations across the capital’s elite HE sector.

But in the meantime, community groups and local stakeholders in White City and Stratford still have scant information and little assurance that they will see many, or any benefits trickle down to local level as a result of the transformative effects of ‘-opolisation’ on their doorsteps. So it is to be welcomed that these issues will be raised in two forthcoming conferences – albeit outside London.  Sheffield University’s ‘Communiversity: how can universities in cities unlock their assets to help communities?’ takes place on May 20th (rowland.atkinson@sheffield.ac.uk), and University of Northampton’s ‘The urban university: universities as place-makers and agents of civic success in medium sized towns and cities’, on July 2nd-3rd (sabine.coadyschaebitz@northampton.ac.uk).

At the same time, UCL Urban Laboratory yesterday issued a summary of interim findings from my own research on university-led spatial development and urban regeneration, which demonstrates the impact of public funding cuts and intensifying international competition as key factors leading universities to invest in spatial expansion, and delivers insights into the institutional policies, visions, and processes involved in implementing major development plans. But it also highlights the complexity of the urban and planning contexts which inform them, and of the impacts and projected impacts which they have on existing sites and communities from a regeneration perspective.

So it’s to be hoped there’s fuel for this debate to gather steam over the forthcoming months, and focus attention on the wider social issues barely concealed by the seductive images of glamorous new buildings for the emerging Premier League of higher education, and the big numbers that go with them.

UCL masterplan shortlist announced in Building Design

By Clare Melhuish, on 12 January 2015

Gehl, O’Donnell & Tuomey and Stanton Williams shortlisted for UCL’s Olympic campus
12 January 2015 | By Elizabeth Hopkirk

http://www.bdonline.co.uk/news/gehl-odonnell-and-tuomey-and-stanton-williams-shortlisted-for-ucls-olympic-campus/5073129.article

O’Donnell & Tuomey, Stanton Williams and Gehl Architects have been shortlisted to masterplan a key part of Olympicopolis.

Allies & Morrison, Make and Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands are also among the five teams of finalists to design UCL’s new 125,000sq m campus just south of Zaha Hadid’s Aquatics Centre on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at Stratford.

The campus is a key part of the Olympicopolis cultural and educational district which will also provide new homes for the Victoria & Albert Museum, University of the Arts London and Sadler’s Wells.

Client David Goldstone, chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation, said: “It’s great to embark on this latest phase of the Olympicopolis project which will see the creation of a new campus in east London for one of the world’s leading research universities.”

The first phase will be 50,000sq m and will incorporate UCL Generator, the university’s first School of Design; the UCL Museum of the Future, a reinvention of the university museum for the 21st century; and the UCL Centre for Experimental Engineering.

Professor Steve Caddick, UCL’s vice provost of enterprise, said: “UCL East will be a university campus of the future – open, connected with businesses and embedded within the local community. We are looking forward to seeing the plans which the shortlisted teams will propose for the site, mirroring this vision for how the new campus will operate in the way it’s designed for the people and communities who’ll use it.”

The finalists – appointed after a PQQ process in October – will be invited to submit formal tenders with the aim of appointing the winning team this April.

Shortlist

• Aecom with Stanton Williams, Fluid and Access = Design

• Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands with Expedition Engineering, WSP Group, Townshend Landscape Architects, Useful Simple Group, Gardiner & Theobald, Quod, PFB Construction Management Services, Arup University, Sturgis Carbon Profiling, Alexi Marmot Associates, People Friendly Design, Space Syntax and PPS Group

• Make with Gehl Architects, LDA Design, Aecom, London Communications Agency, The Neighbourhood, David Bonnett Associates and Quod

• LDA Design with Nicholas Hare Associates, Buro Happold, Momentum Transport Planning, EC Harris, Soundings and Studio Weave

• Allies & Morrison with O’Donnell & Tuomey, Buro Happold, Gross.Max and Gardiner & Theobald