Providing accommodation for nearly 400 students, this scheme for client VITA Student is formed of three towers, the tallest of which stands at 18 storeys. Photography by Will Pryce and Richard Battye
St Albans Place is part of the ‘New Briggate Vision’ regeneration scheme in Leeds, which has seen a long history of unsuccessful planning proposals.
The site occupies a dominant position visible from a number of historic locations, with wide views from the motorway approach. Great care was given to the appropriateness of scale, particularly with regard to the fact that the proposals would establish the now-emerging tower skyline at the fringe of the city centre’s Grand Quarter conservation area.
Using industrial craft traditions of Leeds – tile manufacture, fine terracotta and decorative faience, and textiles for inspiration, the exterior design of St Albans Place has pursued a narrative of a woven façade to produce a simple subscale pattern able to articulate large flat surfaces of the façade.
The ‘warp’ and ‘weft’ of vertical and horizontal strands are interlayered like a fabric, with bespoke glazed ceramic extrusions producing contrasting strands of varying texture and reflectance from a single palette of colour. This creates a façade which is intricate and alluring when seen close-up, yet legible from afar.
The overall built form is articulated as three parts: two lower ‘shoulders’ and a central tower, whose variations of pattern and colour contrast subtly. The refinement of colour specifically uses the pooling nature of ceramic glaze to intensify tones within the extruded curves of the bespoke ceramic panels.
Through technical development with manufacturer NBK Architectural Terracotta, a common tonal range was established across two glazes, creating a family of elements which react to changes in daylight and season.
The building sits within what was formerly an unloved park. This is now a safe and managed public green space with improved public realm among retained mature trees and has been transformative for the area. The building shelters the park both from the weather and from the sight and sound of the motorway, making it a pleasant green space for residents and other locals.
The approach to the building takes residents through the park, encouraging a little mindful time in nature and creating spaces for chance meetings and building friendships.
For its student residents, St Albans Place was designed to balance the calm privacy of simple but well-planned studio apartments with homely and lively communal areas for individual or collaborative study.
The ground floor and its mezzanine are places to meet and relax and offer a venue for planned and informal events, intended to encourage the student community to gather.
Simon Richardson, associate, FCBS
Start on site July 2017
Completion November 2019
Gross internal floor area 12,406m²
Gross (internal + external) floor area 16,826m²
Form of contract Design and build
Construction cost Undisclosed
Construction cost per m² £3,870
Architect Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Client Select Property Group
Structural engineer Curtins Consulting
M&E consultant Crookes Walker Consulting
Quantity surveyor Abacus Consulting
Landscape consultant Re-form Landscape Architecture
Acoustic consultant Fisher Acoustics
Project manager Paragon Building Consultancy
CDM co-ordinator Abacus Consulting
Approved building inspector Ball & Berry
Planning consultant Deloitte Real Estate
Fire engineer Design Fire Consultants
Highways engineer Curtins Consulting
Main contractor Kier Construction
CAD software used Revit
On-site energy generation 18.57 kWh/yr (11 per cent)
Airtightness at 50Pa 4.04 m³/h.m² (student), 2.24 m³/h.m² (retail)
Heating and hot water load 19.25 + 152.48 kWh/m²/yr
Overall area-weighted U-value 0.5 W/m²K
Design life 60 years (structure 100 years)
Throughout the design and delivery of St Albans Place, FCBS collaborated closely with its client, VITA Student’s internal design team, to develop and co-ordinate the design intent for the interiors.
VITA Student has developed standard studio layouts based on previous developments and our role was to work with them to integrate them within the building design. This approach ensured the studio’s kitchen and bathroom material specification met client aspirations in terms of their branding and product offering and allowed flexibility to optimise daylight and views out. This resulted in an efficient building footprint with kitchen and bathroom layouts repeated up the building.
VITA Student’s standard kitchen design was adjusted and developed by FCBS for seven non-standard and two accessible studio types to suit space planning and building regulations requirements as the brand standards evolved over the course of the project.
Products and finishes selected by the client for bespoke prefabricated bathroom pods were also specified in the FCBS-designed accessible bathrooms to maintain consistency throughout.
VITA Student produced the concept design and proposed a material schedule for the private dining room and open kitchen within the shared ‘hub’ facilities. Exposed soffits and robust quality finishes, such as the galvanised steel worktop and polished concrete floor, alongside use of pattern and texture, create a luxe industrial aesthetic, which mimics the enduring and tactile nature of the building’s translucent glazed ceramic façade.
A vibrant colour scheme and feature lighting help create bustling spaces that are visible from the surrounding public realm and attractive to the target student market.
Neutral tones in the studio kitchens and bathroom pods allow students to put their own stamp on their accommodation. Materials and finishes were also specified, on the basis that they were easy to clean and maintain.
The use of bathroom pods, prefabricated by Walker Modular, was an important decision for the programme, as well as consistency of finish and quality. For non-standard bathrooms, the same fixtures and products were used, to keep the same aesthetic across the project.
Kerry Edwards, architect, FCBS
Studio kitchen units, worktops and splashbacks
Bespoke joinery, Graphite Supermatt laminate finish, brushed copper handles, grey quartz worktop and splashback
Studio kitchen flooring
Oak effect boards, 184 x 1219mm
Private dining room flooring and walls
Hexagon matt mosaic floor and wall tiles, light grey, 51 x 51mm
Private dining room appliances
Hob, oven, microwave, dishwasher
Open kitchen lighting
Buster & Punch
Heavy metal pendant, black, 70mm
Bathroom floor tiles
Tobacco porcelain floor tiles, 600 x 600mm
Bathroom feature tiles
Ceramic tiles, 100 x 300mm
S20 (toilet), 500mm semi counter top (basin)
Bathroom fittings and ironmongery