Clapped Out

The last two weeks of June saw a mammoth effort in the University of Stirling to catch up on graduation events for our 2020 and 2021 cohorts as well as our 2022 graduands. Ten ceremonies over the two weeks saw close to 4000 students cross the stage to be recognised for their achievements. With perhaps 5 claps on average per student that means 20,000 claps before the speeches. You can perhaps understand the heading for this post.

Seriously though, well done to all. It has not been easy or straightforward in universities through the pandemic.

I did though miss one of the ten ceremonies. I slipped away to try to make myself presentable for the Scottish Design Awards, to which I had been invited as a guest of Page\Park, who had submitted our new Campus Central building at the University in the Education Building or Project category.

And yes, we won, with the judges noting that Campus Central “made sense of a disjointed inheritance” – something of an understatement in my (biased) view.

I was fortunate enough to be the chair of the Project Board for Campus Central and to see talented individuals from inside and outside the University do their very best to produce a project that we can all be proud of. Again, this was not easy, not only because of pandemic stoppages and disruptions, but also the complicated issues arising from working at the heart of a 60-year old estate and its myriad of existing buildings and histories, with previous builds and renovations often unrecorded. Many days brought many surprises.

The result – and this award as with the RICS Scotland award earlier – is testimony to all involved, but especially the architects and designers (Page\Park), the main contractor (Robertson) and their project team (see details on this Roberston link) and the project management leads in house and external (Gleeds).

You need to see Campus Central (and remember what was there before) to really appreciate it, but the description, photographs and a 17 minute video on the Scottish Design Awards site does give a flavour of our intentions and the outcome.

The project had three elements:

  1. The replacement of a road, roundabout and bus stop/idling area by a new public space and a relocated modern bus hub;
  2. The refurbishment and enhancement of the existing central atrium containing student and retail/commercial spaces, moving away from a thoroughfare to a dwell space and better integrating and improving existing facilities, such as the Students’ Union and individual and collaborative student study space;
  3. A new building on three levels to provide double the existing space for enhanced student and staff services and pulling all the elements at the heart of the campus together, including a new integrated entrance for the Macrobert Arts Centre.

I won’t labour the comparison, but for me aspects of this project combine some of my thinking about town centres and high streets. We reorganised the traffic flows and access and removed bad neighbour polluting effects, creating a public social green space in its place and at its core. Existing retail and commercial space was refurbished and enhanced (see our new Co-op for example) leading to multi- and extended use and enhanced dwell time. This approach also featured in the new build which tied together all the elements, linking the outside green campus spaces with inside space and focused on different uses for the same space over extended hours of operation.

Uptake and reaction have been incredibly positive, and the transformation is remarkable. We did not really need the awards to validate what we had done, but it is nice to win!

About Leigh Sparks

I am Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, where I research and teach aspects of retailing and retail supply chains, alongside various colleagues. I am Chair of Scotland's Towns Partnership. I am also a Deputy Principal of the University, with responsibility for Education and Students.
This entry was posted in Academics, Architecture, Buildings, Campus Central, Design, Places, Reinvention, RICS, Scotland's Town and High Streets, Scottish Design Awards, University of Stirling and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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