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Brits join international line-up on shortlist for £188m Milton Keynes uni

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A collaboration between OMA, Carmody Groarke and Nicholas Hare Architects has been named on the five-strong shortlist to design a vocational and STEM university in Milton Keynes

The finalists in the Malcolm Reading Consultants-organised competition for the ‘new model’ university within the Oxford-Cambridge Corridor include a number of joint bids by UK and European practices.

Among them are Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands with Danish stars Henning Larsen; Hawkins\Brown with Dutch architects and planners KCAP; and WilkinsonEyre with AECOM and Delft-based Mecanoo.

The list is completed by Hopkins Architects with Prior + Partners and GROSS. MAX. 

The five shortlisted teams will receive £30,000 each to draw up a masterplan and concept designs for the university’s 61,120m² first phase – an initial stage of development which comes with a budget of £188 million.

The shortlist

  • Co:MK:U – WilkinsonEyre and AECOM with Spaces that Work, Mecanoo, dRMM, Publica and Contemporary Art Society
  • Hawkins\Brown with KCAP, Grant Associates, BuroHappold Engineering and Sam Jacob Studio
  • Hopkins Architects with Prior+Partners, Expedition Engineering, Atelier Ten and GROSS.MAX
  • Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands with Henning Larsen, Architecture 00, Heyne Tillett Steel, Hoare Lea, Bradley-Hole Schoenaich Landscape Architects, Ken Baker, Steer, Iceni, Abell Nepp and FiD
  • OMA with BuroHappold Engineering, Planit-IE, Nicholas Hare Architects, Carmody Groarke and Galmstrup

MK:U university, which plans to reach ’beyond the scope of a traditional university’, is scheduled to open in 2023 and, by the time all three phases complete in 2034, will boast 15,000 students. The university will focus on vocational and STEM subjects relating to digital, cyber, autonomy, robotics and artificial intelligence.

The project – backed by Cranfield University and Milton Keynes (MK) Council – is one of the flagship elements of the MK Futures 2050 programme, which anticipates a more than doubling of the population within the Buckinghamshire new town by 2050.

A 10ha unused plot close to Milton Keynes station has been earmarked for its campus, bordered by Grafton Street, Witan Gate, Aylesbury Boulevard and Childs Way.

MK:U programme director and Cranfield University pro-vice-chancellor Lynette Ryals said: ‘The architectural community responded enthusiastically to the competition, we were in no doubt that they connected with our vision and it was humbling to choose from such a high-powered and talented field. We want to express our deep thanks to all who entered.

’[We are] predicated on achieving excellence and we know from research that the quality of the learning environment directly affects learning outcomes. The finalist teams proved they can deliver exceptional design in educational settings, and communicated both collaborative spirit and energy in thoughtful and detailed submissions.

Competition director Malcolm Reading said: ‘The quality of submissions was outstanding, and many had chosen to assemble inspired teams with international expertise. The finalists succeeded by matching distinctive expertise to the opportunities offered in the brief, and combined this with a well-structured approach to team dynamics.’

The judging panel is being chaired by Cranfield University chief executive and vice-chancellor Peter Gregson. It includes Madeleine Atkins, president of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, Peter Bazalgette, the non-executive chairman of ITV, and Paul Williams of Stanton Williams Architects.

The teams’ concept designs will go on display at Middleton Hall in Milton Keynes between 4 and 7 July 2019 and online digitally before the jury meets. 

An overall winner will be announced in the summer.

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