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First look

Feilden Clegg Bradley completes ‘woven’ ceramic-clad student housing in Leeds


St Albans Place is a three-sectioned serviced-apartment building developed for the VITA Group

The scheme contains 376 studios, ranging in size from 20m² to 34m². Each studio includes a kitchen and ensuite facilities and is designed as a mixed-mode ventilated space, with openable windows as well as near-blackout blinds.

At ground floor and mezzanine level, there is a communal student hub and facilities include a gym, a movie room, flexible shared social areas and study spaces, a self-catering dining space and a proposed restaurant/bar opening out into the adjacent New Briggate Park.

Fcbstudios stalbans willpryce (6)

Fcbstudios stalbans willpryce (6)

Source: Richard Battye

The building’s site, in the north-east of Leeds City Centre, is part of the ‘New Briggate Vision’ regeneration area, at the fringe of the city’s Grand Quarter conservation area. The surrounding park, previously overgrown and underused has been relandscaped with a further seven tree species and 23 new species of shrub and bulb planting introduced, to help support the existing insect and birdlife on site. The tripartite building form is designed to give a sense of enclosure to the park, sheltering it from the noise and visual connection to the nearby motorway.

The building has a distinctive bronze ceramic façade, intended as a subtle nod to Leeds traditional industries as well as reflective of the terracotta and faience finishes on many older buildings in the city. 

Fcbstudios stalbans richardbattye key (1)

Fcbstudios stalbans richardbattye key (1)

Source: Richard Battye

Architect’s view

One of the key factors in the project’s success as a fitting addition to Leeds’s urban topography, in both scale and character, was achieved through the exploration of materials – their contextual relevance and physical characteristics. Designed to be very much ‘of Leeds’, the student housing development represents a contemporary built form that will act as a gateway to the emerging neighbourhood.

The exterior design is inspired by Leeds’s industrial craft traditions: the manufacture of architectural tile, fine terracotta and decorative faience; and the woollen and textile industry. It has pursued the narrative of a woven façade to produce a simple subscale pattern able to articulate large flat surfaces of the facade. Like fabrics, the ‘warp’ and ‘weft’ of vertical and horizontal strands are interlayered, with bespoke glazed ceramic extrusions producing contrasting strands of varying texture and reflectance from a single palette of colour to create 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, where the variance of pattern and colour contrasts 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, a common tonal range was established across two contrasting glazes, creating a family of elements which react positively to changes in daylight and season. This has resulted in a contemporary interpretation of a familiar material in a bold and innovative way.

The building sits within what was formerly an unloved and little-used park. This is now a successful, safe and managed public green space with vastly improved public realm among retained mature trees and has transformed 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 student community to gather.

Simon Richardson, associate, FCBS

Fcbstudios stalbans willpryce (10)

Fcbstudios stalbans willpryce (10)

Source: Richard Battye

Client’s view

Vita Student is the UK’s best student accommodation experience and has changed the face of student accommodation since its launch in 2014. We recognised that a large segment of both domestic and International students wanted a more premium, experience led accommodation that the market was not providing and we were especially keen to deliver this product into the Leeds market.

The aim for this particular development was to deliver a building befitting of the brand and, following challenging feedback from Leeds City Council on our initial proposals, FCBStudios were engaged on the back of the delivery of successful schemes in the city previously. Immediately following their appointment, FCBS worked closely with the Client to establish the client brief and determine the key aspects of our scheme both in development and operationally. From this brief, FCBS fully engaged Leeds City Council taking them on the journey of design, utilising key Leeds specific reference points, demonstrating considerable skills to navigate through this often complex negotiation.

As Design Team Leader, FCBS led a co-ordinated approach from the design team providing options and solutions to our established operational requirements, and once novated worked positively with the contractor to ultimately deliver the fantastic scheme.

The final completed building speaks for itself: it delivers the statement landmark building that both the Client and the Local Authority wanted and most importantly we have 376 happy residents living in the building that fully meet the demands and requirements of today’s student.

James Calderbank, senior development manager, VITA Group

1854 fcbs pres 02ga ew section

1854 fcbs pres 02ga ew section

Source: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

South-west section

Project data

Start on site July 2017
Completion date Nov 2019
Gross internal floor area 12,406 sqm
Gross (internal + external) floor area 16,826 sqm
Form of contract or procurement route Design and Build
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Client Select Property Group
Structural engineer Curtins Consulting
M&E consultant Crookes Walker Consulting
QS Abacus Consulting
Landscape consultant Re-form Landscape Architecture
Acoustic consultant Fisher Acoustics
Project manager Paragon Building Consultancy
CDM coordinator (PD) Abacus Consulting
Approved building inspector Ball & Berry
Main contractor Kier Construction
Planning consultant Deloitte Real Estate
Fire engineer Design Fire Consultants
Highways engineer Curtins Consulting
CAD software used Revit
On-site energy generation 18.57 kWh/yr 11.1%
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) 


Readers' comments (2)

  • Industry Professional

    Single staircase and LONG corridors. OK it's sprinklered but couldn't they have fitted in two?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Would've impacted the profit margin (sorry, compromised the business case). An example of 'cost engineering?
    No matter how good the architects are, does student housing really have to be in the form of high rise lumps (sometimes, as in this case, looming over conservation areas - and often out of character with their surrounds and heralding the march of inhuman-scale redevelopment)
    Whatever happened to the 'student village' concept that developed in the 1960s?
    Is the architecture of this brave new world the result of the commercial property business cultivating the market for more elaborate and expensive accommodation created by the increasing numbers of apparently better-off overseas students?

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