Making the grade

25 Feb 2010

Rick Mather Architects completes the sustainably designed Art & Design academy for Liverpool's John Moores University

Adjacent to the Grade II* listed Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, LJMU Art & Design Academy was conceived as a landmark building, reinforcing Liverpool’s international status as a former Capital of Culture. The vision for the new building was to bring all of the University’s art and design programmes together in a stimulating new space, enabling more creative forms of teaching and research and offering new public facilities and services to the region's creative industries business sector.

The building is conceived as a serpentine form that bends and curves to reflect the shape of the site. The main entrance draws students, staff and visitors into a central atrium with views through and out towards the Cathedral. Unified by a dramatic staircase, the atrium is the social heart of the building, facilitating interaction between the academic and public facilities.

The lower ground and ground floor facilities are primarily dedicated to the public spaces showcasing the Academy's creative talent through the galleries and exhibition space, project rooms and studios. These public spaces, including the Tate café, spill out onto external spaces, encouraging additional activity outside the building. The studios and teaching spaces, located on the ground and upper floors are designed to be as flexible as possible, maximising light, space and energy efficiency.

LJMU’s commitment to sustainability is reflected in the adoption of renewable energy technologies, such as a biomass heating system and maximising natural daylight into the studios and seminar rooms. It achieved a BREEAM rating of 'Very Good', the stipulated requirement by the University.The building was occupied in January 2009 and the Degree Shows in the following summer were the first public events to be held throughout the building.

Hosting this first show, Martin Downie, Director of the Academy said, "The space allowed for a real gallery experience. It was the first time the school could show all of the programmes together in one space - it had a flow that ensured large numbers of the public could experience the work in comfort. The fashion show was professional with great lighting, projection and seating for 300! The main atrium was welcoming and a focal point for the show allowing information, sales and a musical experience. Feedback from visitors, staff and students was that it was a fabulous show and wonderful space to exhibit the work and a great building."

Key Facts

United Kingdom
Education Civic Buildings

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