university building

university building
   The 1950s in Britain witnessed an unprecedented period of school building, partly as a result of the 1944 Education Act. During the 1960s attention turned to university building. The social climate favoured an expansion of the university system which had fallen behind other countries in Europe, notably Italy, France and Germany. The Robbins Commission, established in 1959, contended that appropriately qualified individuals ought to be entitled to a university place. These ideas happily coincided with the recognition that modern architecture could be socially adaptable and could serve the wide range of challenges presented by both old and new universities. This potential was fully exploited in the British universities founded and partly built in the 1960s, including Sussex (1961), East Anglia (1963), York (1963), Lancaster (1964), Essex (1964), Warwick (1965) and Kent (1965). All built in parkland, well outside the towns, they adhered to the brief that each university required about 200 acres to accommodate sports facilities and playing fields. This principle, while denying the many advantages offered by bringing together ‘town and gown’, allowed for expansive and individual planning. The seven examples cited differ considerably. Four are unitary, with communal buildings arranged variously towards the centre and with student residences placed on the periphery. Sussex, located in Stanmer Park just outside Brighton, was planned by Sir Basil Spence, together with most of the principal buildings. The style adopted was a variant of new brutalism, with red brick and concrete lintels creating a certain monumentality even though no building rises above three storeys, with the exceptions of the Meeting House and the Gardner Arts Centre.
   East Anglia, by Denys Lasdun and Partners, places science buildings in a continuous east-west spine with others, including the stepped, eightstorey student residences, arranged to the north and south. Essex, near Colchester, takes advantage of the contours of the site. Principal buildings forming long parallel, linked blocks, with courtyards and walkways at upper levels connecting also to the fifteen-storey student residences. Warwick, outside Coventry, by Arthur Ling and Alan Goodman with contributions from Yorke, Rosenburg and Mardall and Grey, Goodman and Partners, provides another variant. The collegiate Universities of York, Kent and Lancaster offered the opportunity for architectural variety amongst the colleges. Surrey, in Guildford (1966) sited on the hill below the cathedral, integrates more successfully with the city.
   Further reading
    Birks, T. (1972 ) Building The New Universities, Exeter: David and Charles.
   HILARY GRAINGER

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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