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Fraser Brown Mackenna retrofits 'heroic' 1960s education building

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Fraser Brown Mackenna Architects has completed this £29million refurbishment of the ‘heroic’ Cockcroft Building for the University of Brighton

The London-based architect has comprehensively overhauled the 15,000m² building, home to the univeristy’s science and engineering departments, stripping back the original 1960s structure to open up the floorplate.

According to the practice, the external envelope with its ‘sophisticated façade’ was upgraded to meet modern energy requirements.

The building services have been updated throughout. Renewable heating and cooling is provided by an aquifer thermal energy store with two 90m deep wells in the campus grounds. Extensive photovoltaics are installed on the building’s roof.  

Internally, the building has been reconfigured with a variety of formal, informal, group, individual research, teaching and learning spaces designed to suit 21st century pedagogies.

Project architect John Moakes said: ‘The open, transparent interior is a physical expression of the collaborative working and learning environment the University seeks to promote.’


The architect’s view

‘The Cockcroft Building is a pure-bred 1960s higher education building. A simple and powerful form, impressive scale, sophisticated façade and a clear-span concrete structure are key features of this ‘heroic’ building.

‘Like many buildings of its era, its environmental performance and internal space planning were outdated and in need of upgrading to meet the requirements of 21st century learning.

‘Our proposals involved a comprehensive retrofit that included architecture, structure and services all working together to transform the building. This meant stripping the building back to the concrete frame so its underlying qualities could be seen and transforming circulation through the building to open up the floor plate.

‘Our brief from the University of Brighton meant that radically reducing energy usage and transforming the internal environment were as equally important as designing internal spaces that provide a stimulating learning environment.

Staff and students now have a multitude of spaces to suit formal / informal and group / individual research, teaching and learning. The open, transparent interior is a physical expression of the collaborative working and learning environment the University seeks to promote.

The external envelope has been radically upgraded and low-energy services installed throughout. This includes renewable heating and cooling from an innovative Aquifer Thermal Energy Store with two 90m deep wells in the campus grounds and an extensive PV installation on the roof.

Daylight now permeates through the liberated floor plate; the exposed structure and services, coupled with recycled floor tiles and crisp glazed screens give the interior a character and identity to match the facade – this is the University’s home of science and engineering, and it wears its heart on its sleeve.


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