Swanke Hayden Connell complete new Open University building
The Jennie Lee building has 5000m2 over three floors, an atrium and a 600m2 state of the art Ambient Technology Lab. A Partnering procurement process ensured immensely productive teamwork for this innovative education environment.
A key element of the brief required a focused community environment encouraging departmental interaction for free flowing ideas and academic cross fertilisation. Traditional places of chance meetings like corridors, tea points and stairs, are all brought out of the dark and assembled in the Nexus atrium, transformed into bridges and a spiral stair with multi level social spaces. This enhances the physical and visual sharing opportunities, both arranged and accidental.
The second key element was also an illustration of educational enhancement. The whole building is to be a lab of human and technological interaction, a live ambient experiment, facilitating and inspiring their learning and research. This was achieved by embedded technology in the 3-dimensional Nexus for academic interaction, the rigid Honeycomb cellular structure for quiet focus, and the fluid, flexible and adaptable open clusters for teamwork. A democratic configuration enabling a variety of operating patterns to be explored and recorded by the inhabitants.
A third issue, a mutual passion, was sustainability. It is naturally vented throughout, by single sided perimeter openings in the clusters and draws cooled fresh air via a concrete undercroft to both the cellular Honeycomb and the Nexus, utilising the atrium’s natural stack effect. The façade has only 35% transparency, balancing insulation and daylight. It uses night time cooling and rainwater harvesting.