Historical preservation and cutting edge technology meet at Swindon University
International design practice Scott Brownrigg has helped to secure planning permission for the £7m Swindon University Technical College (UTC), as part of the successful bid team, led by BAM. Providing new concepts in technical education for students aged 14 to 19, Swindon UTC will be an ‘engineering academy’ at the heart of a large engineering, manufacturing and business community. The facility is being jointly sponsored by Oxford Brookes University and hi-tech international firm Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells, a provider of cutting edge sustainable technologies.
The overarching theme and concept references the site location on Swindon’s historic (former) Railway Village, providing a clear link between ‘historic’ engineering and ‘engineering the future’. The design statement positions UTC Swindon as a modern institution that aims to embed itself within the community and respect the industrial history of the past, whilst looking to add to that heritage by preserving and enhancing the railway village conservation area. Liaising closely with English Heritage on the scheme design, both the Grade 2 Listed old school building and water tower will provide key parts of the site. The water tower will be restored to its former glory, and other existing buildings on the site will be renovated.
All new buildings will use materials and structures designed to be sympathetic to the site’s cultural heritage and complement the historic nature of the site. Jon James, Project Director at Scott Brownrigg details: “The challenge of working with English Heritage and the Conservation Officer within the Railway Village conservation area in Swindon has allowed us to develop a truly iconic building that is respectful to the industrial and cultural heritage of the site.”
A new ‘hub’ building will be separated from the existing historic buildings by glass; this intentional contrast will help to identify the new building, yet provide a link to the history of the site. The new contemporary intervention sits slightly away from the existing buildings and is articulated through a simple glazed structure. The creation of this hub will allow for a cross- fertilisation of ideas by students and tutors alike. Future proofed it will allow for flexibility and reshaping as the needs of the college evolve.
On approaching the site, the water tower will provide an integral feature of the educational offering and provide a landmark which will help build a sense of anticipation and deliver a favorable, lasting impression. Other key elements in this iconic design include a new entrance, which will incorporate display areas and offer views into the workshops and upwards to the Science Centre; a terrace, which will form a ‘second front’ and enable the work of the UTC to be viewed from the adjacent railway by millions of rail travelers. Reference to the Smithy that was once located in the courtyard has been used to demonstrate continuity of the industrial and architectural language and our debt to the past.