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Plymouth University arts building sparks student protest

Arts students at Plymouth University’s new Roland Levinsky building, by Henning Larsen Architects (HLA) and BDP, have protested against the design of the building.

The £35 million copper-wrapped building only opened in September, but students and staff are so aggrieved at the ‘cramped and inadequate’ conditions that last Saturday several fine art students organised a protest.

Andy Klunder, head of fine art at the university, said: ‘The protest stems from a whole range of issues coming to a head. Three departments – fine art, 3D design and graphic design – moved here from Exeter to consolidate Plymouth’s Faculty of Arts, but the building wasn’t equipped to accommodate the extra students.

‘The students are up in arms because they can’t do their work and nothing was ready for them when they moved in. The architecture department is also cramped – there’s just not enough room to house the students.’

The building was designed by HLA up to RIBA stage D, when BDP took over as executive architects working on a Design and Build contract. It has since won two local architecture prizes – it was named best new building and people’s choice at Plymouth’s Abercrombie Awards.

James Eden, a first-year fine art student at Plymouth, said: ‘It’s a beautiful example of modern architecture, but sadly, it’s unfit for purpose.

‘The studio space is far smaller than was previously provided, leaving students to fight for valuable space, and leaving some students with no space at all. Architecture students are left to book workspaces and not given any as standard.’

He continued: ‘The building cannot be used to paint in, as the ventilation system makes oil-based paints hazardous to use. What kind of arts building doesn’t allow for the use of paint?’

But BDP put the blame on the university. Project architect John Palmer claimed the building was never designed to accommodate so many departments.

‘It was never intended that all the arts faculties would be in the building – it just isn’t big enough,’ he said. ‘But here are some teething problems, and there is always some fine-tuning to do, which can often only be done once people are using it.

‘I believe the university has been given some money to sort the ventilation issues,’ he added.

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