Articles
2/04/08
Photo: Richard Bryant

Photo: Richard Bryant

An eyecatching facade for a specialist postgraduate facility.

The EEE Building provides 5,500 square metres of new post-graduate accommodation for the faculties of electronic and computer science (ECS), engineering and education. It also makes a statement as a gateway to the university’s Highfield campus, including provision of site security facilities. In addition to these specialist teaching and research spaces, which have restricted access, a 360-seat lecture theatre and internet cafe are provided.

The Highfield campus has a significant history, which influenced the design approach. It is defined by a number of Basil Spence buildings throughout the central areas of the site. These vary in scale and materiality, but concrete predominates. More recently, a masterplan by Rick Mather defined development characteristics for a number of new buildings including some by Mather himself, which are mainly in brick and render. The EEE Building was built at the end of the masterplan period, but marks the beginning of a new University development framework for further projects. The campus is unified by a well-tended soft landscape element.

Built over four storeys on a constrained 90 by 18 metre site, the scheme is characterised by a clear division in the plan. The accommodation is contained within a rectilinear envelope, with full-height windows and large white precast concrete panels, partially relating to the white render of the Nightingale Building opposite. However, primary horizontal circulation is separated from this accommodation block and located in an internal ‘street’, which runs the full length of the building behind a single-glazed curtain wall. This internal street gives movement through the building an element of spectacle, creating an activated and engaging facade facing the main route into the campus and drawing the public realm into the building. The lightness of this facade is articulated by its cantilevered detachment from the building at each end, where respective entrances to security at the north and faculties to the south are identified. Walkways within the street connect to the accommodation block across bridges, which pass through a distinctive and strongly-coloured internal street elevation. The colour scheme continues the red/green/blue spectrum as a visible identification and celebration of the world-class ECS faculty which uses the majority of the building.

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The accommodation building is based on an in-situ concrete frame with exposed fair-faced soffits, whose thermal mass contributes to a passive-energy strategy through night-time cooling. Services, including integrated chilled beam and lighting units, are suspended from the exposed soffits. This maintains the maximum height and perception of volume in the research areas, which are a combination of open-plan and cellular workspace. The latter are located around the building perimeter to benefit from natural daylight and ventilation. Heating is from perimeter LPHW radiators, connected to the university’s combined heat and power system.

The internal street comprises a more complex steel frame construction. It is unheated, using passive solar gain in the winter and natural ventilation – through automatically controlled facade vents, extracted at high level – to provide fresh air cooling in the summer. Extensive linear fritting mediates glare in this space whose visual complexity and transparency provides a counterpoint to the solid mass of the research ‘box’ behind it. Elements of the internal street’s elevation colours are pulled through to the accommodation block to provide convivial highlights to the workspaces.

Project team
Architect: John McAslan & Partners; qs: James Nisbet; structure: AKS Ward; m&e: Parsons Brinkerhoff; acoustic engineer: Sandy Brown Associates; fire consultant: FaberMaunsell; access consultant: David Bonnett Associates; building control: London Borough of Camden; landscape architect: Plincke Landscape; main contractor: HBG Construction; client: Estates & Buildings Department, University of Southampton; photographer: Richard Bryant.

Selected subcontractors and suppliers
Curtain wall, windows: Schüco; glass: Saint-Gobain; louvres: Melaway Glass Assemblies; roofing: Alumasc; carpets: Interface Europe; Marmoleum: Forbo Nairn; doors: Reynaers, Geze, Leaderflush Shapland; door closers: Dorma; ironmongery: Higrade Hardware; plasterboard: Brisish Gypsum, Fermacell; suspended & acoustic ceilings: British Gypsum; solar shading: Levolux; insulation: Rockwool; interior & exterior lighting: Thorn; sanitaryware: Twyfords, Armitage Shanks; steel: Graham Wood Steel; precast concrete cladding: Trent Concrete; paving: Marshalls Paving.

ATH27/ April 08 p18.

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