Penoyre & Prasad’s new building for the University of Kent is set within woodland on the northern edge of the campus. It brings together the Kent Business School and the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science into a single 8,000 sq m building comprising interactive social learning areas, a café, innovative teaching environments, academic workspace and open plan research space.
The largest academic building since the 1960s when the university was founded, the Sibson building does not dominate the woodland. The building is carefully sited amongst the mature trees and coppiced woods so its overall size is never fully visible, and its coloured aluminium fins reflect the changing light and movement of the trees.
Students and staff have extensive views across the forest canopy. The colours and patterns of the woodland are echoed and reflected back in the material palette, furniture and graphics.
The new learning environment fosters interaction, collaboration, social exchange and further synergies between the two schools. The two Schools are located at either end of the flexible ‘w’ shaped plan which allows the departments to flex over time. The open corners of the plan are for research and knowledge exchange, and are supported at each level by a tapering concrete ‘hand’ that also provides the longer spans required for the lecture theatres below.
Penoyre & Prasad consulted extensively with students, academics, admin staff and catering teams. Passive measures of natural ventilation, roof mounted PV’s, long structural spans and raised access floors all contributed to the building’s BREEAM Excellent rating.
The building is one of five in the South East to win 2018 regional architecture awards on 17 May and means it will be considered for a RIBA national award.
Described by RIBA as ‘a very thoughtful building, with a clear architectural concept which has been rigorous enough to withstand the project development and budgetary constraints’, the design concept features zigzagging wings which help to integrate the two schools while allowing them to have their own dedicated spaces.
The RIBA description continues: ‘It was evident that the relationship between the design team and contractor was good, with shared aspirations helped by good communication of design intent. Likewise, there seemed to be a strong sense of trust and respect between client and architect and when we met them the architect’s passion and enthusiasm was infectious.’
The WAN Education Award 2018 is open for entries