Our second project with Anglia Ruskin University has officially gone to contract. Colm Murphy discusses the details of the new space.
A: The capacity of 1,000 students on one floor meant that we have to increase the fresh air provision, requiring us to design and build six additional plant rooms around the perimeter, each of which requires a bay of windows to be replaced with louvres, for which planning was already in place. The removal of windows will be the more complex work, with the louvres installed from the interior. Another implication of the high capacity is the requirement for additional WCs, which we surpassed by providing more additional units than needed as we will always propose best practice rather than meeting the minimum requirements, whilst considering and respecting the client’s budget.
Another challenge has been the design development of a staircase that will lead from the existing university on the third floor to the fourth-floor fit out. This will provide direct access between the floors without having to leave the demise and go through the shared lifts and stairs, whilst also providing a visual connection that can be viewed from all sides of the atrium when complete and clad in Anglia Ruskin’s bright yellow brand colour. The staircase will be one of the longest lead time items, whilst cutting through the floor slab and bracing the opening with structural beams will be the most intrusive work carried out internally.
The client has a great relationship with Oktra after successfully managing and leading the fit out of the third floor. Our approach was to interrogate the brief so that we could develop the project into something beyond their expectations. We managed to increase the number of seminar rooms and improve the ancillary spaces that were proposed in the initial client brief diagram to maximise the capacity and facilitate Anglia Ruskin generating more fees. We were able to give the client so much more than the competitor proposals by pushing beyond the brief and providing opportunities that they hadn’t considered.
They wanted something different for the fourth floor and wanted a particular focus on wayfinding so this became a focal point in the design and was identified as one of the elements that won us the project. We lead with a rationalised planning approach that facilitates intuitive wayfinding with clean circulation routes, which is enhanced with seminar rooms identifiable by the bright coloured portals, the colour of which follows into the room.
The finished space will more than double the current student capacity in the Republic Building. It will also have a larger library and study area, increased provisions for teachers and an equal size breakout to the third floor. We’ve managed to maximise the seminar rooms whilst also delivering on the ancillary spaces essential to provide the correct environment for students to learn and giving teachers the facilities to prepare for lessons, supporting their success.
The client is most looking forward to the fish tank in reception: we didn’t even know they were being serious when they first requested this, but it has become a focal point of the reception when you first enter the space and it’s definitely a fun element – that and the neon heron that we proposed! They’re also looking forward to taking Anglia Ruskin to the next level, literally, but also in terms of the university growing up and having a new aesthetic that will be used as a reference across other sites, especially in terms of wayfinding.
We’re excited to be part of Anglia Ruskin’s journey as they grow: we have a great relationship that allows the client to see us as a safe pair of hands and we want to do this justice by providing an even better outcome than before and surpassing expectations. Mostly we’re looking forward to working with Anglia Ruskin because the process has been so much fun: they enjoy us bouncing ideas around, pushing boundaries and challenging their brief, whilst equally pushing back, ensuring that we get the best possible outcome and a happy client.