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PTP rises to £40m Cornish challenge

Percy Thomas Partnership has designed a new university near Falmouth in Cornwall. The £40 million project for the Combined Universities in Cornwall is a collaboration between Falmouth Art College and Exeter University.

The design of the Tremough campus near Penryn began as a series of 'positive', interrelated spaces with the form of the buildings developing around them. The spaces, many of them undercover, are linked by a series of steps and ramps and provide plenty of opportunities for social interaction between the students. The stairs, which are all wide and with low gradients, also act as seating and meeting places.

The core space is an open courtyard at the heart of the scheme, with a number of different routes into it. As the university expands over time, this courtyard will remain the central focus.

Two arcs spiral outwards from the central courtyard and each arc is made up of a cluster of interlinked structures. Most of the links between structures occur above ground level, so that they form bridges above social and circulation spaces below.

The 20,000m 2site slopes down from west to east and the building emerges out of the hill, rising up at the eastern end. A single long block running the entire length of the building from west to east houses the academic departments and science laboratories linked to Exeter University. A path that begins on the crest of the hill, runs along the length of the roof of this block, providing a key point of access to the building and offering views out to sea.

The western arc houses the Design Centre for Falmouth College of Arts and appears as a series of stepped 'terraces' that follow the contours of the hill. The open-plan studio spaces and workshops offer views to the other studios at different levels. The stepped roof-scape is landscaped and fully accessible. The southern edge of the Design Centre encloses the southern side of the central courtyard and forms a link to the eastern cluster of buildings.

The eastern cluster comprises much of the student amenity space, including the learning resource centre and 700-seat seminar and lecture theatre with flexible partitioning. The granite wall of an existing stable block is retained and built up with boulders embedded in concrete with glazing above. Other materials used throughout the building will be local stone, timber cladding and glass.

The campus - which also includes a new library, refectory, cafes, shops, flexible teaching spaces, research and teaching laboratories, arts studios and workshops - has everything necessary to be a permanently inhabited space, said PTP's projects director Jonathan Adams.

'We wanted to make a building that would be like a village, so every part of it could be active and interesting, 'he said.

'The other thing that's really exciting about the project is the combination of the fine arts work of Falmouth with the hard science subjects taught by Exeter University, and seeing what kind of synergy there is between the two.'

The scheme, which also includes renovation of a number of existing buildings on the site, is phase I of the new campus. It will begin on site in September and will be ready for occupation in September 2003.

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