A double take in London

Nick Myall
Wednesday 04 Jul 2018

University College London has transformed two of its most important listed buildings

The latest projects as part of C’s Transforming UCL programme are now complete: Bentham House (UCL Faculty of Laws) and the Kathleen Lonsdale Building (Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences). Delivered by UCL Estates and designed by Levitt Bernstein, the two projects deliver world class teaching, research and pastoral facilities in complex heritage contexts.

Bentham House, Endsleigh Gardens

The new home for UCL Faculty of Laws integrates Bentham House (a Grade II listed former Union Headquarters) and the adjacent mid-20th century Gideon Schreier Wing (by Richard Seifert), on Endsleigh Gardens and Endsleigh Street respectively. The design unifies these two previously disparate buildings, creating a state of the art environment for learning and teaching and a new identity for UCL Laws.

A new atrium between the buildings forms a legible, social heart for the Faculty and features a café/hub and common areas for private or group study. It also provides access to all levels, with spaces organised from public to private: multi-purpose teaching/seminar spaces are located on the lower floors with new offices and support spaces above.

As well as the refurbishment of Bentham House, a new extension behind the Gideon Schreier Wing provides almost 1,000m2 of additional floor area. In conjunction with the general rationalisation of spaces, this has improved the overall quantum and quality of teaching facilities and enhanced accessibility, wayfinding and acoustics across the buildings.

Throughout, sensitive refurbishment has been combined with modern interventions to create exemplary, modern teaching, learning and social spaces. This concept of marrying the historic fabric and contemporary details is also evident within the interior design: traditional finishes such as polished wood panelling and brass fixtures have been supplemented and are complemented with modern furniture and fixtures and a fresh colour palette.

Externally, the new elevation of Portland stone and Georgian proportions unite the street façade to provide a crisp, modern, but sympathetic addition to Bentham House while respecting the rhythm of the adjoining terrace. The new rear extension, made of brick and stone, is distinctly modern in feel. Here, a new glazed link is constructed using slender precast concrete mullions to ensure transparency across this principal circulation space.

UCL Faculty of Laws moved into Bentham House in April 2018 and the building will be formally opened in June 2018. Professor Piet Eeckhout, Dean, UCL Laws said: ‘I am absolutely thrilled to have had the pleasure to welcome the Faculty back home to Bentham House.

UCL Laws has, at long last, a home fit for our world-leading research, teaching and social enterprise. The project has given the Faculty more than a building: it’s given us an inspiring environment in which our whole community can come together.I look forward to seeing what the future holds for UCL Laws in Bentham House’.

Professor Dame Hazel Genn, Project Sponsor said: ‘At the very core of the vision for redeveloping Bentham House has always been how the building will support, inspire and motivate the world-class teaching and thriving research culture within UCL Laws.

The highly creative plans Levitt Bernstein produced for the building have seamlessly married the much-loved traditional spaces with bright, modern facilities, giving our Faculty a home that reflects and respects its heritage, while also supporting and driving its forward-thinking, global agenda.

It has been such an immense pleasure to lead the re-development from inception to completion, and I look forward to seeing the possibilities Bentham House provides for generations to come’.

Kathleen Lonsdale Building, Gower Place

Built in 1915, this substantial Grade II listed, five storey building on Gower Place has been completely refurbished to create high quality, academic space for various departments within the UCL Faculty of Mathematical & Physical Sciences. The completion of this project has also resulted in the co-location of the entire Earth Sciences Department for the first time in the University’s history.

The building interior, which over the years had only isolated areas of modification, has been transformed to provide specialist laboratories, teaching rooms, research facilities and offices,supported by areas for socialising and group working. Accessibility and wayfinding issues have also been addressed and spaces rationalised to make them work more effectively, thus enhancing both the staff and student experience.

Unique scientific research carried out within the building necessitated technically complex briefs for several spaces, which were challenging to implement within the context of the listed building.

Wherever possible, the original spaces and features have been restored. The main period staircase has been sensitively repaired and glazed bricks in the large post-doctorate research space have been revealed, acting as a reminder of the building’s history within which the new contemporary interior sits.

A key aspect has been the integration of the new building services within the context of the listed building. Although generally exposed, they are carefully integrated with the lighting and sit semi-concealed behind a ceiling plane of hung acoustic panels.

Levitt Bernstein and GRAHAM Construction worked on the refurbishment, which was phased over two years, with parts of the building remaining in occupation throughout. It was formally re-opened by Sir David Attenborough following completion in April 2018.

Professor Lars Stixrude, Head of Department, UCL Earth Sciences said: “We were delighted that Sir David Attenborough was able to join us as the guest of honour at the grand re-opening of the Department of Earth Sciences in the Kathleen Lonsdale Building.

This event marked the completion of a multi-year, £26 million renovation that is rich in historical significance, and scientifically transformative for our department, which traces its origins back to the founding of UCL.

The project brings enormous benefits for all members of the department. Among these are new specialist teaching labs, social hub spaces for the students that are in close proximity to their Professors, and vastly improved and entirely new research laboratories.”

Andrew Grainger, Director, UCL Estates, said: “The completion of Bentham House and the Kathleen Lonsdale Building marks another significant moment in the Transforming UCL Capital Programme. These buildings have immense historical significance, both to UCL and to Bloomsbury and the sensitive and high quality refurbishments secure their future, maximising sustainable principles alongside their unique heritage.”


Nick Myall

News editor

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