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The top 10 British universities: Architectural league table


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

Agree 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

10. The Chapel of St Salvator, University of St Andrews

The hub of life in Scotland’s oldest University, the Chapel is a rare and beautiful example of late gothic architecture. Since its foundation in 1450 as a part of Bishop James Kennedy’s College of the Holy Saviour, St Salvator has served a dual role, both as the college chapel and as a collegiate church serving the wider community. St Salvator faces onto the street, unlike the more ‘enclosed’ Oxbridge chapels, which open into the college courtyards.


9. UCL main building, University College London

UCL, Main Building

Finally completed in 1985, 158 years after the foundations were first laid, UCL Main Building was designed by William Winkins, architect of the National Gallery and the similarities between the buildings are clear. Both feature columned porticos and domes at the centre of their symmetrical plans. The Main Building - also known as the Octagon building, after one of its constituent parts - has become part of the UCL brand: its striking neo-classical design features in the university’s crest.


8. Norfolk terrace, University of East Anglia

The ziggurats at the University of East Anglia have encouraged generations of students to ‘go East’ to Norfolk. In the vanguard of the 1960s ‘plateglass’ university-building programme, they consist of a series of classrooms and laboratories connected by walkways, and glazed residential quarters with a stepped pyramidal form.

The two accommodation blocks, Suffolk and Norfolk Terrace, were designed by Denis Lasdun in the 1960s for the then fledgling university. Recently refurbished, today the Grade II* listed ziggurats are considered ‘des res’ by the Ballardian faction on the campus of a university known for its prestigious creative writing course.

7. Lecture Theatre Block, The University of Leeds

Built at the same time as their celebrated Barbican complex, Chamberlin, Powell & Bon’s (CP&B) huge contribution to the University of Leeds is, suprisingly, not yet listed.

The design was influenced by contemporary educational theory, which stressed a greater ‘connectivity’ between departments and shared functions. CP&B also reorganised Leeds’ lecture timetable in order to reduce the number of lecture theatres required by one third, proving that sometimes an architect’s job can be more than simply designing a building.


6. Chancellor’s Court, Aston Webb Building, University of Birmingham

In 1900 the University of Birmingham became the first of the six ‘red-brick’ institutions to receive a royal charter and university status (Liverpool, Leeds, Bristol, Sheffield, Manchester followed later). The central building and focal point of the campus is the exceptional Chancellor’s Court.

Designed by Aston Webb and Ingress Bell, the building is semi-circular in form and has four large domes, one housing the Great Hall. In the centre of the semi-circle is the tallest free-standing clock tower in the world, nicknamed ‘Old Joe’ and once called the ‘intellectual beacon of the Midlands’.

Due to a shortfall in funding, Chancellor’s Court was never fully realised. The university this year commissioned Glen Howells Architects to construct a fifth dome to house a 450-seat auditorium for the new music department.


Part two - The top five universities >


Readers' comments (3)

  • The GSA building would stand up to most buildings in the world in its own right never mind in a polll like this yet only comes second...you couldnt make it up.

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  • I do like Winkins (No 9) - nearly as bizarre a name as Ingress Bell (No 6), but you should have added Cullinan (No 8) to the list of designers.

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  • Where is the Arts Tower? Where is the neat mordernism?

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