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Beveridge in Belfast

Student welfare is at the core of new student housing. Joan Shannon reports

The Queen's Elms halls of residence for the Queen's University of Belfast are situated in parkland in a quiet residential area off the Malone Road, close to the main university campus.

The most recent development is Beveridge Hall, an attractive villagelike complex, built in brick.

The hall was named after the late Sir Gordon Beveridge, former vice chancellor of the university. At the naming ceremony the current vice chancellor George Bain said: 'It is most fitting that this building has been named Beveridge Hall. One of Sir Gordon's priorities was the welfare of students and he did everything in his power to ensure their well-being.'

Community and privacy

For many students, living in hall represents their first experience of living away from home and student housing can play a major role in easing the transition from family living to full independence. The Beveridge Hall design centres on promoting both community development and privacy: from the community of external spaces, through shared internal spaces, to the privacy of individual bedsitting rooms.

Accommodation for the 354 students is in 11 three-storey blocks of study bedrooms on a multi-level site. Each room has personal washing facilities and access to a shared kitchen/dining room, showers and WCs.

The blocks are built as structural, cellular, load-bearing brick and blockwork masonry on strip or trench-fill foundations as expedient. Roofs of greycoloured concrete tiles accompany gable walls topped with reconstituted stone copings.

Sense of warmth

Extruded wire-cut clay bricks were specified; a golden buff colour to engender a sense of warmth for the external spaces, in combination with drag-faced, dark blue facings for the base of walls and for accent features elsewhere.

The bricks are laid in stretcher bond with the blue brick courses projecting 10mm proud of the general plane of buff facing brickwork.

Within the field of buff bricks above the blue brick base of each building, two courses of blues form a band to highlight the ground-floor windows, in association with the blue sill bricks. Seven single courses of blue bricks spaced apart form accent features to the windows and corners of the first floor. And below the second-floor windows, three courses of blues form a band taken right around the building. Dwarf walls and steps in the complex reflect the colour combination used in the building.

The texture and colour of the brickwork go hand in hand with decorative lines in a carefully considered approach that integrates the new buildings with the landscape. For example, the mortar colours (dark red for the buff brick and black for the dark-blue facing brickwork) are re-echoed in the external works where buff, blue and red clay pavers create attractive areas.

Linear motifs are also provided in the form of black metalwork features - grilles across the lower part of the ground-floor windows, cycle racks, bollards, handrails and a decorative arch.

Paths and avenues

The Queen's Elms site is elegant parkland, supporting many varieties of mature shrubs and trees. Existing trees were retained and supplemented with new ones, shrubs and wall-climbing plants, including various species of ivy. When mature, they will soften the appearance of the new buildings, contributing to the creation of the relaxed ambience of old-style, ivy covered, academic halls.

The main avenue between the principal buildings leads to a paved terrace with wooded views to the south beyond a stepped lawn. Paths pass through spaces between the blocks, providing connections within the development and other parts of Queen's Elms. Car parking is provided at the entrance to the site and so the avenue between the blocks is closed to all except emergency vehicles.

The car park is paved with tarmac and clay pavers. A tarmac 'road' and 'pavements' of buff pavers, laid in herringbone bond, are separated by blue drainagechannel blocks. Buff pavers are also used to emphasise the entrances to the buildings.

Towards the far end of the main avenue, circular paved patterns evolve from the centre of a wide courtyard area.

Smaller circular patterns accentuate the extremities of other paths within the site. In each case the centre of the circle is formed by dark-red pavers.

Herringbone pattern is used in both red and buff pavers for the designs. The main bulk of the pavers are buff, while the blue pavers are used to form patterns of lines and as a way to creat borders to the other colours.

Architect Roger McMichael sees brick 'as a background to the paved and planted character of the spaces between the buildings, which contributes extensively to the sense of community in the village.'

The demands of the academic year made it imperative that the construction programme should not slip and, in fact, the two-phase, £4.75 million development was delivered to plan. The architect paid tribute to the quality of workmanship in Northern Ireland saying 'I applaud the very good bricklaying and paving squads here and the contractors that supervised them. They took a pride in their work.'

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