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The top 10 British universities: Architectural league table (part two)


The AJ selects the best in British academic architecture, from the monastic cloisters of Oxbridge to the Victorian pomp of the red-bricks

5. Whitworth Hall, University of Manchester

Whitworth hall, The University of Manchester

Whitworth Hall, designed by Paul Waterhouse, was built between 1895 and 1902. The hall is situated on the south-easterly side of the Old Quadrangle of the university and has been Grade II listed since 1963.

The Hall is constructed of sandstone, with red tiled roofs in fishscale bands, and is connected to the Manchester Museum via a two-storey entrance archway.


4. School of Engineering, The University of Leicester

James Stirling’s first major project was the School of Engineering at the University of Leicester. The ground floor holds extensive workshops and laboratories, while the vertical mass contains offices and lecture theatres. Completed in 1963, the building is noted for its technological and geometric character, created by the contrast of large areas of glazing with heavy masonry forms. Stirling went on to design similarly striking university buildings for Oxford, Cambridge and St Andrews.


3. Cripps Building, St John’s College, The University of Cambridge

The Cripps building, named after its benefactor Sir Humphrey Cripps, was built in 1966-67 as part of the great expansion of higher education in the 1960s. It has two blocks, Upper River Court and Lower River Court, and was designed by architects Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya who had to accommodate a brook which runs through the site and important existing buildings that were awkwardly aligned.


2. Glasgow School of Art, University of Glasgow

This Glasgow School of Art building was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who had earlier attended the college. It was finally completed - 12 years after work began - in 1909. One of Mackintosh’s finest buildings, it contains a wealth of styles, from Scottish baronial architecture to art nouveau (of which he was the main British champion).


1. Radcliffe Camera, The University of Oxford

The exquisite Radcliffe Camera, completed in 1748 by the architect James Gibbs, was England’s first circular library. It is built in three main stages externally and two storeys internally. The ground stage is heavily rusticated and has a series of eight pedimented projections.

The central stage is divided into bays by coupled Corinthian columns supporting the entablature. The top stage is a balustraded parapet with vases.

  • Disagree with our list? Send suggestions of your own favourite academic architecture to ajevents@emap.com. The first entry pulled out of the hat on 6 November will win a copy of Ruth Slavid’s Extreme Architecture

Part one - Includes Birmingham, UEA and Leeds >


Which university has the best architecture?

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Im quite partial to University of Glasgow main building myself, and believe that it most certainly should be on that list but at what other building's expense I cannot say. Lovely effort none the less.

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  • Ignoramuses - Greenwich University - is a World Heritage site - Inigo Jones to Wren, Hawkesmoor etc!

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  • I do agree that old Scott's Glasgow is superior to young Waterhouse's Manchester (Bute Hall to Whitworth Hall, if you must), but talking of scots, Leicester was designed by another scot just as much as the almost scot you mention, and that scot had been a student at the art school you make No 2 - and he might reasonably ask you where you think you found "a wealth of art nouveau style" in that building!

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  • I do not agree with that list.

    The Glasgow school of art should be number 1. It is one of the most thought provoking, holistically designed buildings I have ever experienced. And it was designed with total functionality in mind - the human experience flourishes alongside the immense beauty of the building. Maybe it's Scottish-ness is what prevented it from being number 1 as I have no doubts that if that building was in any English city we wouldn't be having this debate in the first place.

    Also, the university of Cambridge is a concrete monstrosity but 'trendy' arty types like to say how much they love it so's to embellish their credentials for being on a higher level of perceiving architecture to normal folks who would think it is ghastly.

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  • you forgot the other university buildings by James Stirling - all of them masterpieces:

    The Florey Building, Oxford
    The History Library, Cambridge
    Halls of Residence, St. Andrews University

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