This time next year the University of Greenwich begins its phased move into one of London's finest architectural monuments, the Royal Naval College at Greenwich. Redevelopment of the college, to designs by Dannatt Johnson Architects, has begun with the Queen Anne Building, which will house the vice-chancellor's accommodation and certain teaching departments. The move is part of the university's plan to consolidate several scattered sites into a few key locations.
The site dates back to the Middle Ages: Henry viii, Mary and Elizabeth I were born here in the old Tudor Palace, of which part of the undercroft remains. The buildings of the original Royal Naval Hospital were masterplanned by Wren and completed to designs by Wren, Hawksmoor and Vanbrugh. Three of them - Queen Anne, Queen Mary and King William - have been taken by the university on a 145-year lease; the tenant of King Charles (begun by Webb in 1662) will probably be the Trinity College of Music. The Dreadnought, built as an infirmary by James Stewart in 1764, has also been rented by the university and construction has started to convert it into a resource centre/library and social centre for the campus. The two greatest masterpieces on the site, Wren's Chapel and the Great Hall painted by Thornhill, will remain open to the public under the jurisdiction of the Greenwich Foundation for the Royal Naval College, the tenant of the Greenwich Hospital Charity.
Dannatt Johnson's interventions will have minimal impact on existing fabric. Structural changes will restore original features: partitions inserted across wards will be removed, sanitary arrangements rationalised, blocked openings reopened, and the original plan form and circulation pattern reinstated.
When the university is established, the public will have controlled access to the site - as at any university - while students and staff will enjoy the privilege of occupying one of the world's outstanding architectural sites. It is to be hoped that before redevelopment is complete in 2001 the university will have seen the logic of moving its architectural department to the campus too.
ARCHITECT Dannatt, Johnson Architects
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Michael Barclay Partnership
SERVICES ENGINEER Engineering Design Consultants
PROPERTY ADVISER Grimley
QS AND PROJECT MANAGER Gordon Fanshawe and Partners
CONTRACTOR Longleys (Queen Anne Building), Wallis (the Dreadnought)