Posted Wednesday 16 December 2020
Kingston University has topped off a year of widespread praise for boosting students' learning through its investment in campus facilities with its iconic Town House named runner up in the Guardian University Awards.
Designed by RIBA Gold Medal-winning practice Grafton Architects, the multi-million pound Town House in Penrhyn Road is transforming the learning experience for students and acts as a gateway to the University for residents and businesses. Some 5,000 students, staff and members of the Kingston community poured through its doors on its opening day in January, and many more have done so since.
Town House is home to an extensive library and archives, group study space, dance studios, studio theatre, covered courtyard, cafes and two roof terraces - all set out over six floors. It was recognised in the 'Buildings that Inspire' category in the annual Guardian University Awards in November.
The announcement came soon after Kingston School of Art's Mill Street Building had carried off a highly commended accolade at the Mayor of London's New London Architecture (NLA) Awards.
The extensive refurbishment of the Mill Street Building at the University's Knights Park campus was designed by Haworth Tompkins, the Architects' Journal AJ100 Practice of the Year, to provide more than 10,000sqm of creative teaching, workshop and studio space for students. It has reduced carbon emissions by about 50 per cent and is now rated BREEAM Outstanding - the highest industry standard for assessing sustainability.
Commenting on the contenders for the Mayor's Prize for Circular Design, the NLA judges said the decision to retrofit the existing building and the care taken with the reuse, repurposing and recycling of construction waste made a powerful statement about the potential of existing buildings.
Town House was also named a finalist in the NLA London Awards, shortlisted for top honours in the learning category.
Meanwhile, the Civic Trust announced both Town House and the Mill Street Building as regional finalists for its 2021 awards. The accolades celebrate outstanding architecture and planning - particularly recognising projects that have made a positive contribution to the communities they serve.
Town House was also ranked highly commended in the Concrete Society's Annual Awards. The construction of the six-floor building, completed by Education Constructor of the Year winner Willmott Dixon, was a significant undertaking. Specialist sub-contractors cast a concrete frame offsite then assembled the structure piece by piece onsite
The Concrete Society panel applauded the design in promoting space, light and opportunities for collaboration by students from different disciplines. The judges also admired the way the concrete complemented stonework in the Surrey County Council offices on the opposite side of Penrhyn Road.
Town House project manager Gary Young said the building had lived up to expectations despite the challenges the education sector had faced during the pandemic. "Town House was six years in the planning and took three years to build. This year it's been wonderful to celebrate the achievement of it opening and to see students and staff enjoying the building, which has already become a landmark in Kingston and the surrounding area."
The University's Associate Director of Capital Projects, Connor Wilson, said the transformation of the Mill Street Building had created world-class facilities. "The upgrade has opened up the space - maximising natural light and creating flexibility and more opportunities for collaboration between the different courses," he said.
"Having Town House and the Mill Street Building both being celebrated in such a breadth of award nominations demonstrates the investment Kingston University has made in creating state-of-the-art facilities for students, staff and the wider community to enjoy for many years to come."
Both buildings are also among this year's regional finalists for the Royal Institute of British Architects' (RIBA) annual awards which will now be judged in 2021
They were also key features in London's Open House 2020, a celebration of the most striking architecture in the capital, both old and new. The wider community was invited to view the buildings on virtual tours and find out more about their architecture and history.