A clutch of structures designed by Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall & Partners (RMJM) on University of York’s 1960s campus have been listed at Grade II
Historic England said that the buildings represented a physical manifestation of the University of York Development Plan, which was heralded as the beginning of contemporary university planning in the UK.
The RMJM structures listed include the university’s central hall venue, two colleges, a covered walkway and the landscape for much of the original campus, based around a lake.
Central Hall was described in its listing as a ‘landmark post-war university building’ that is the university’s ‘tour de force; an imaginative and bold design with striking architectural form’.
The two colleges, Langwith and Derwent, were the first university buildings to use the CLASP prefabricated system ’which had never been used on this scale before’, their listings read.
They both provided the ‘innovative combination’ of hosting teaching, social facilities and residential accommodation in a single college.
The landscaping’s ‘refined design successfully integrates a series of status buildings within a carefully designed landscape, and was praised by the contemporary architectural press’, according to the listing.
Two sculptures on the campus by Austin Wright have also been listed.
RMJM was the only architectural practice to design four universities: York, Bath, Stirling, and the University of Ulster at Coleraine. It specialised in public sector work throughout the 1960s.
Heslington Hall, a country house dating back to the 1500s, which also sits on the university campus, was listed in 1955.
Listing details in full
Central Hall, University of York (RMJM) - 1967
Source: Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Collections
Central Hall (1966-68) A landmark post-war university building with dramatic views across the campus lake. Central Hall is York University’s architectural tour de force; an imaginative and bold design with striking architectural form. Designed by RMJM and built 1966-68 it successfully fulfils its design brief of being a multi-purpose building with features such as retractable seating and a removable sectional stage that enables a versatile space.
Covered walkway linking Langwith, Central Hall & Vanbrugh (1966-1968) An elegant pergola-like structure with a stepped profile by RMJM; it retains its original form and character, and later cladding applied to the underside of the canopy does not diminish its special interest.
Dryad sculpture by Austin Wright (1984) A relatively rare surviving large-scale outdoor commission by Wright, many of whose works have been stolen or destroyed; it is a dynamic sculpture of high aesthetic quality and workmanship.
Dryad york by wright
Untitled sculpture by Austin Wright (1967) For its unusual setting within a boxed concrete ramp, allowing it to be appreciated at almost every angle and which formed an integral part of the main walkway around the campus; a key element of the design concept for the university. Of further interest for its place within Wright’s oeuvre, representing the maturity of his work in aluminium.
Derwent College (1963-1965) For the innovative combination of teaching and social facilities as well as residential accommodation in a single college, enabling it to instantly function as a university and allow for expansion by adding further colleges on the same principles. Derwent and Langwith Colleges were the first British university buildings to be erected using the CLASP prefabricated system [with RMJM]; a model for a rapidly-built, economical and standardised form of welfare state architecture, which had never been used on this scale before.
Derwent view across lake
Former Langwith College (1963-1965) As above but to further list for the exceptionally well thought out massing and relationship of these two colleges to the earlier listed college of Heslington Hall and the university’s dramatic landscaping. To the design of the architects Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners (RMJM), with Stiratt Johnson-Marshall and Andrew Derbyshire
Campus West Designed Landscape (1963-1980) A refined design that successfully integrates a series of status buildings within a carefully designed landscape, and was praised by the contemporary architectural press. Designed by the distinguished mid-20th-century architects Andrew Derbyshire and Maurice Lee of RMJM, with Frank Clark, co-founder of the Garden History Society as consultant.