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Milton Keynes university contest finalists revealed

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The five schemes shortlisted in the contest for a new university in Milton Keynes have been unveiled

The finalists in the competition for MK:U, a ‘new model’ university within the Oxford-Cambridge Corridor, include a collaboration between OMA, Carmody Groarke and Nicholas Hare Architects.

There are also joint bids by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands with Architecture 00; Hawkins\Brown with Dutch architect and planner KCAP; and WilkinsonEyre with AECOM and Delft-based Mecanoo.

The shortlist in the Malcolm Reading Consultants-organised contest is completed by Hopkins Architects with Prior + Partners and GROSS. MAX.

The five teams have each received £30,000 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 concept designs will now go on display at Middleton Hall in Milton Keynes from 4 to 7 July and will be exhibited online before the jury meets.

MK:U, which plans to reach ‘beyond the scope of a traditional university’, is scheduled to open in 2023 and, when complete in 2034, will take 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 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.

The shortlist

  • Co:MK:U— WilkinsonEyre and AECOM with Spaces that Work, Mecanoo, dRMM, Publica, Contemporary Art Society and Tricon
  • Hawkins\Brown with KCAP, Grant Associates, BuroHappold Engineering and Sam Jacob Studio
  • Hopkins Architects with Prior + Partners, Expedition Engineering, Atelier Ten, GROSS. MAX., Buro 4, RLB Schumann, GRFN, Caneparo Associates, QCIC, Nick Perry Associates, Access=Design, Cordless Consultants, Sandy Brown Associates, FMDC and Tricon
  • Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands with Architecture 00, Heyne Tillett Steel, Hoare Lea, Bradley-Hole Schoenaich Landscape Architects, Ken Baker, Steer, Iceni, Abell Nepp, Mark London, FMDC, People Friendly Design, PFB Construction Management and FiD
  • OMA with BuroHappold Engineering, Planit-IE, Nicholas Hare Architects, Carmody Groarke, Galmstrup, Approved Consultant Services and Russell Partnership

MK:U programme director and Cranfield University pro-vice-chancellor Lynette Ryals said: ‘MK:U is going to be an economic asset to the whole UK, not just Milton Keynes, creating the graduates that businesses say they desperately need and addressing the national and international skills shortages in fast-growing new technologies and industries.

‘Seeing the designs by our five shortlisted teams for the first time is a major boost for the project and for the city. MK:U will be something that Milton Keynes should be really proud of; it’s a hugely ambitious and forward-thinking plan. We want every Milton Keynes resident to visit the competition website and give us their views on the designs.’

Competition director Malcolm Reading said: ‘This is a competition focused on placemaking at both the city and institutional scale, and all five teams have answered the brief with sophisticated propositions.

‘These concept designs all complement Milton Keynes’ emblematic urban grid pattern but offer five different identities for MK:U. They respond to the context, environment and history of Milton Keynes with diverse strategies to give the new university powerful civic presence, to connect it to the wider city, and mix green public space with academic and student residential space.’

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.

An overall winner will be announced in the summer. 


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