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AHMM’s ‘monolithic’ Bristol student housing approved


Bristol City Council has waved away criticism of a trio of proposed high-rise student blocks designed by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris and approved the designs

Campaign groups and residents associations had criticised the scheme to house 953 postgraduates near the city’s main Temple Meads station as a blot on the landscape for people arriving by train. Historic England said it would ‘screen present views of the attractive colourful terraced houses of Totterdown which though undesignated, are a locally distinctive and well-recognised symbol of the city’.

The heritage watchdog added that there was a danger the proposed buildings ‘may appear as sheer unrelieved monoliths with little sense of refinement in their detail.

‘This is a very prominent site, and its location adjacent to the London-bound platforms at Temple Meads will be the first impression of Bristol to visitors arriving in the city.’

The accommodation will be arranged in three buildings, ranging from 21 to 9 storeys, wrapped around a central courtyard which is a key part of the university’s £300 million Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus.

A derelict former Royal Mail sorting office and adjoining 1970s office building will be demolished to make way for the new scheme, which is a joint venture partnership between the University of Bristol, investor Equitix, and student accommodation provider Campus Living Villages.

Outline planning consent was granted for the whole campus’s height and massing in July 2018. Since then the site has been split for planning purposes between the academic buildings and the student accommodation. This week’s decision gives permission for the design of the student accommodation with the scheme due to start on site in mid-2020.

The new campus is intended to be ‘at the forefront of digital, business and social innovation’, providing teaching and research space for 3,000 students and 800 staff as well as business and community partners.

The buildings’ ground floors will be metal clad to reflect the site’s industrial heritage while the upper floors include a large communal roof terrace, common rooms and a biodiversity roof as well as living spaces.

The university had rejected Historic England’s concerns over the project saying: ‘The designs comply with the outline planning consent agreed in July 2018 and have been praised for their high quality by the Bristol Urban Design Forum and the City Design Group.

‘’Careful consideration has gone into the proposed layout, landscaping and appearance of the buildings. In particular, the colour and materials used for the façade were chosen to reflect and complement the station and the industrial heritage of the site, while also representing the innovation focus of the new campus.’

The university cited the city council’s planning officers report to support its position. While the Bristol Urban Design Forum ‘wondered whether some horizontal articulation might be beneficial’, its report read: ‘on balance (we) support the approach being taken.’

The design forum praised the ‘carefully considered façade treatment’ and the choice of colours which it said were ‘very much in keeping with the colouration of the adjacent listed station complex’.

A public consultation on the detailed designs of the public spaces and academic buildings was held last month. The reserved matters planning application for this part of the campus is due to be submitted in November.

Tem514 illustrative masterplan a1 500 no redline

Illustrative masterplan 1:500. Designs by Grant Associates

Illustrative masterplan 1:500. Designs by Grant Associates


Readers' comments (4)

  • Looks monstrous...like an urban supermax prison. Is that where the ten thousand new prisoners are going?

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  • The AJ should illustrate this news story with plans that show how this building will set new standards in mid-rise student residential accommodation, with its clustered bedrooms, dual aspect kitchens, day-lit corridors, gym, private dining room, multipurpose hall, communal social/collaborative and quiet study spaces, and the level 9 hub and garden - but AJ spliced this together from public documents before we had time to respond...

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  • 'Spliced together' by the AJ or not, Historic England's concerns are surely valid - and the stuff about the colour and materials of the facade being chosen to reflect and complement the station sounds like pure bullshit.
    The Bristol Urban Design Forum doesn't come out of this well, and the site plan, such as it is, fails to relate the development to its context.

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  • As a student new to Bristol, I would still feel that I had arrived on the set of ‘Escape from New York’ (1981), starring Kurt Russell. I would be looking for a breach in the 15m high wall around Bristol and trying to get home.

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