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FaulknerBrowns wins approval for 'sensitive' £40m Durham Uni scheme

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FaulknerBrowns Architects has been granted planning permission for a new teaching block for Durham University, despite concerns raised by Historic England

The scheme, on a 1.6ha site which is currently mainly open space, will provide lecture theatres, classrooms, laboratories, study zones and catering facilities.

The site at Lower Mountjoy lies next to the Durham City Centre conservation area and is close to views of the Durham Cathedral UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A report by council planners said: ‘The proposed building would represent a striking building in own right with a clean, contemporary aesthetic but equally one which has sought to reflect and be sympathetic to the more historic neighbouring properties.’

But Historic England had highlighted a number of concerns about the scheme, saying that the building’s mass ‘markedly intrudes upon views of the historic houses that form the edge of the conservation area and the formal grounds of St Mary’s College, a non-designated heritage asset’.

The government’s heritage watchdog added: ’Taking into account the site and design requirements there is likely limited scope to positively modify the proposal short of markedly reducing its scale or placing it at an alternative location’.

A statement from FaulknerBrowns said that it had developed a modular massing strategy to ‘create a sensitively scaled development, sympathetic of its local context’.

It said that the building, to be made of 12 modular blocks, ‘provide a transition between the modern university buildings nearby, and the more traditional and classical architecture of the buildings that are adjacent to the site’.

The roof would comprise a series of peaks constructed from a standing seam zinc material with glazed rooflights and an atrium roof feature with solar panels.

The planning report said: ‘The façade is principally brickwork but the roof colour returns down the inner leaf of the façade, producing a layering effect.

‘Selected areas of the building façade would use a darker brick, so as to reflect the roof and to create a recessive tone to aid in breaking up the massing of the building.

Andrew Kane, Partner at FaulknerBrowns, said: ‘With a diverse range of world-class environments, the Lower Mountjoy Centre will provide an exciting new venue to enhance the teaching and learning experience at Durham University.’

3. section atrium louvres +faulknerbrowns

3. section atrium louvres +faulknerbrowns

Project data

Location Lower Mountjoy, Durham, UK
Type of project Higher education
Client Durham University
Architect FaulknerBrowns Architects
Planning consultant DPP
Quantity surveyor Turner & Townsend
Main contractor Galliford Try
Total cost £40 million

8. mountjoy +faulknerbrowns (14 of 20)

8. mountjoy +faulknerbrowns (14 of 20)


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Readers' comments (1)

  • What are we supposed to make of images 5/11 and 6/11? Are the client and architect dreaming of cloning this building ad infinitum?
    And what of English Heritage's reference to St Mary's College being a 'non-designated heritage asset'? If it's a heritage asset shouldn't it have some degree of statutory protection that ensures that any development impacting on it is properly justified? The same client has presented some pretty weak justification for destroying their Student's Union.

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