Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We use cookies to personalise your experience; learn more in our Privacy and Cookie Policy. You can opt out of some cookies by adjusting your browser settings; see the cookie policy for details. By using this site, you agree to our use of cookies.

FCBS gets go-ahead for 1,900 students flats at Sussex University

  • Comment

Brighton and Hove City Council has unanimously approved plans by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios to create 1,899 new student bedrooms on the University of Sussex’s Falmer campus

The project on the West Slope of Basil Spence’s 1960s campus features 59,500m² of student accommodation together with a health and wellbeing centre, launderettes, a café, a supermarket, and a ‘pavilion’ library.

The AJ100 practice has worked with landscape architects Grant Associates on the proposals for the site, which Spence described as a ‘Little Town in the Valley’.

FCBS said the development formed ‘part of the continuing evolution of the Sussex campus to improve the University’s facilities, ensure the best possible student experience and continue the architectural legacy of Basil Spence’.

The practice added: ’Our scheme is inspired by and respectful of the 1960s Spence campus, not in an overt pastiche of the architectural language employed in his work at the University of Sussex, but to imbue the development with the continuity of his ideas of public space, enjoyment and learning, enveloped, connected and surrounded by landscape.’

The practice claims the mainly terracotta-clad development will achieve a BREEAM Excellent rating and includes green roofs on the villa blocks, grey water recycling, heat recovery from students’ showers and photovoltaics on the North Court.

FCBS says it planned to reduce the scheme’s embodied carbon through ’the use of lightweight reuseable structures’ and by lowering the carbon in the foundations by minimising excavation and ’working with the landscape and topography’.

The development, which will be built and subsequently managed by Balfour Beatty, will be naturally ventilated and feature on-site composting and provision for student allotments.

A future timescale for the project is not yet known, though the development is scheduled to be delivered in phases over a four-year period once site preparation works have begun.

The practice said it expected ’minimal work’ would be carried out on the scheme until further decisions are taken later this year on the enabling work.

Fcbstudios sussex site elevation kk

Architect’s view

The West Slope residential development for University of Sussex provides three typologies of student rooms together with ground-level student amenities comprising student hubs, launderettes, a supermarket, health centre, student library and a café. Balfour Beatty is developing the scheme, and once complete, will operate the student housing on behalf of the University.

Fcbstudios sussex masterplan1to1000ata1 roof level

Fcbstudios sussex masterplan1to1000ata1 roof level


The new buildings, and their relationship to the parkland campus, have been designed to respect and enhance the vision of the campus’ founding architect, Basil Spence. Spence worked collaboratively with landscape architect Dame Sylvia Crow on the original campus designs that were about capturing the natural landscape of the South Downs chalk valley. The landscape, as Spence said, is as important as the architecture for the ‘Little Town in the Valley’.

Our proposals seek to reinforce this landscape/townscape concept in an integrated way. New landscape spaces in the valley and on the slopes are arranged in response to new student life and a relationship with nature against the backdrop of the South Downs National Park.

In the valley, the North Court forms a civic parkland which continues the original green thread of ancient woodland that weaves its way through the bottom of the valley. The residential buildings form and animate a new public space, and at ground floor include the residential reception and space for a replacement Health and Wellbeing Centre, as well as amenities to include a supermarket and pavilion library.

The West Slope is a steeply sloping site adjacent to the South Downs National Park. The scheme retains the character of the existing parkland setting and the student clusters and townhouses propose an integrated architectural and landscape design. It is respectful of the existing mature trees and creates garden terraces around these trees for the smaller neighbourhood clusters of residences to use, occupy, and claim as part of their identity.

The West Slope clusters, which make up roughly three-quarters of the accommodation, touch the ground lightly. They have been developed and positioned to minimise excavation, retain as many trees as possible and respond to the contours of the site.

Four storeys in height, they contain two cluster flats per floor of seven and eight bedrooms with associated kitchen, dining and living space arranged around a single stair and lift, which again acts as a space for social interaction. These rooms will have wonderful views of the trees and the surrounding landscape.

At the centre, a special West Slope cluster contains a student hub at the ground level and is one storey higher to identify its significance.

The townhouse terraces sit on the contours running along the site. Their living spaces at ground level are visually open to encourage interaction with other groups of students and help to form communities. The family units are located away from the more socially active student rooms with their own external and internal play areas.

The materials for the new development are inspired by Spence and relate to the land – natural materials made from clay. Terracotta tiles, a contemporary interpretation of the local tile hanging and mathematical tiling of Brighton – are used in differing profiles and tones that reflect the light and animate the surfaces against the trees.

Project team

Client University of Sussex and Balfour Beatty Investments
Architect Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Structural engineer Arup
Landscape architect Grant Associates
Services engineer Arup
Environmental engineer Arup
Accessibility Buro Happold
Contractor Balfour Beatty
Project manager Balfour Beatty

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.