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FIRST LOOK

Levitt Bernstein and Burwell Deakins complete latest phases in UCL’s campus transformation

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The newest spaces in University College London’s ambitious building programme restore a lost connection through the campus

Comprising a new public space by Levitt Bernstein, sitting behind the Grade-I listed Wilkins Building, and the connecting Lower Refectory by Burwell Deakins, these latest phases mark a milestone in the £1.2 billion, 10-year Transforming UCL programme being delivered by UCL Estates.

The 19th-century Greek Revival Wilkins Building, designed by National Gallery architect William Wilkins (known for its Corinthian portico that features on UCL’s logo) previously backed on to a service yard, which effectively severed the ability to move through the building to the east side of the campus and the Bloomsbury Theatre. A large part of Levitt Bernstein’s scheme was to reinstate this connection, creating a new public link that also serves as an outdoor events space and leads down to the new refectory. The refectory will connect with a new student centre, the design of which is being led by Nicholas Hare Architects (who will also revamp the Bloomsbury Theatre) and is due to complete in 2018.

Wilkins Terrace is paved and built with blocks of Portland stone and yellow brick, referencing the Wilkins Building and surrounding facades. A new ‘fourth façade’ completes the composition and riffs off the classical proportions of the surrounding three buildings, while also concealing the myriad services required for the wider UCL campus and the new Lower Refectory. 

Wt axo labels

Wt axo labels

New classical planting, including large pleached trees and climbing wisteria, complements and provides a softening frontage to the built form. A number of edible species also allow staff and students to further interact with the new space, be it through flowers, herbs or fruit trees. 

The refectory is located at lower ground floor level and provides a reconfigured dining hall, servery, kitchen and catering support facilities to service UCL’s Bloomsbury campus. The dining hall has been relocated to the heart of the Wilkins building to inhabit the original double-height arched space, while the servery and support facilities have been relocated to the secondary spaces below the existing Bloomsbury Theatre and the new Wilkins Terrace. 

Ucl wilkinsterrace press s hr 5

Ucl wilkinsterrace press s hr 5

Source: Ben Blossom

The existing suspended ceilings and interstitial plant deck in the main space have been removed, allowing the original masonry arches and clerestory windows to be exposed again, re-establishing double-height daylighting to both sides of the dining hall to create a grand collegiate dining facility at the heart of the campus. 

The main entrance to the servery will align with a new north-south route that will be created once the student centre is completed, and in order to improve the connection between the north and south colonnades and across campus, the glazing to these facades has been restored and additional entrance doors have been added. 

Fixed tall banquette seats align with the existing arched piers and provide defined spaces within the dining hall linked with a large circular light installation. The east and west ends of the dining hall have more intimate seating areas and a hospitality bar for events with lowered acoustic timber ceilings. The flanking orangery spaces have more informal low banquette seating, and a stone floor finish provides a visual connectivity with the external colonnades and terrace. 

Wt section

Wt section

Architect’s view

Wilkins Terrace provides a unique courtyard space of distinctive quality. As a new piece of public realm for the university it creates a destination that wants to be used and occupied.

Matthew Goulcher, managing director, Levitt Bernstein

The new Lower Refectory restores the historic splendour of the Wilkins Building that has been concealed by past adaptations, while creating a new model and social heart for UCL’s central campus.

Simon Parkes, project director, Burwell Deakins Architects

Client’s view

This is a significant milestone for our Transforming UCL programme delivering flexible outdoor space at the heart of our Bloomsbury campus within an existing Grade I listed building. It is a fabulous space developed for our staff, students and visitors and will benefit and inspire our entire academic community for generations to come. This project – its scope and quality – really encapsulates the vision and scale of Transforming UCL in Bloomsbury and beyond.

Andrew Grainger, director, UCL Estates

Project data (Wilkins Terrace)

Start on site June 2015
Completion August 2017
Form of contract or procurement route Design and Build
Construction cost £9.3 million 
Architect Levitt Bernstein 
Client UCL
Structural engineer Curtins
M&E consultant BDP
Quantity surveyor/cost consultant Potter Raper Partnership
Project manager WSP
CDM coordinator Faithful + Gould
Main contractor Balfour Beatty

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • Chris Rogers

    Interesting to compare to the similar recent scheme at the V&A, with the Levete courtyard. Have to say on paper (screen) this appears the better of the two.

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