Kingston University Town House
- Original design
- Grafton, 2020
The 2020 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2021 programme mid August 2021
The vision behind Kingston University's Town House is remarkable. The brief – to build a modern library and performance space, connecting the traditionally hushed atmosphere of quiet study with the energy and sound of rehearsals taking place. To the architect’s credit, and some major soundproofing, it works incredibly well.
Designed by this year's RIBA Gold Medallists Grafton Architects, Town House is an uplifting building. The exterior is grand yet contemporary. Inside there is a sense of light and space, with high ceilings, wide open staircases and walkways creating a feeling of being able to see the entire building at once. It is designed to connect staff and students from different disciplines and encourage collaboration.
The atmosphere is inspiring, yet informal. This is a place that people meet, gather and socialise as well as learn. It is also a building for the whole community to use. Walk through the revolving doors and you are immediately invited in. There are cafes, an outdoor reading room and a roof terrace. The Courtyard, an amphitheatre-style performance area will showcase student productions. A set of sliding doors increases the space or closes it off when not in use.
Kingston University is at the heart of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and its campuses are embedded in the landscape. In designing Town House, the aim was to set the standard for architecture in the borough and the future of campus-based university education. The £50m landmark building replaced a temporary, prefabricated structure that had long outstayed its welcome and has transformed the Penrhyn Road campus.
Kingston University is a sector-leader in opening up higher education to a wide community and supporting social mobility – 55 per cent of its students are the first in their family to go to university. A significant proportion are commuter students, who live away from campus and commute to study. The opportunity for these students to benefit from time on campus in a central hub where they can meet and study, was fundamental to the brief.
And a world-class building sends a strong message about the significance of the University’s role in the sector and the power of architecture in supporting its mission.
Town House represents a new home for internationally acclaimed collection of work by pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge, as part of an ongoing collaboration with Kingston Museum. The work by Kingston-born Muybridge had been stored outside the borough and inaccessible to researchers and will live alongside the University’s own archived material.
It will also provide new space for the curation of major art installations. The ground floor foyer currently houses a selection of recent works by Kingston School of Art Professor, Mike Nelson, from his acclaimed Tate Britain Commission ‘The Asset Strippers’. Future planned exhibitions include works by Ben Kelly and Elizabeth Price.
The building as an art gallery and performance venue is part of what makes Town House a gateway to the University for local residents, the wider public and businesses. It’s a vibrant new face to the University and a lasting legacy for the city and the students of the future.
Project value: £50m
Size: almost 10,000m2 (GIA)
The building comprises:
• A library and associated resources over six floors, including quiet study space for groups and individuals.
• Flexible technology throughout to support collaborative group work.
• A theatre with stepped seating, professional audio-visual kit and lighting rig.
• A covered courtyard for performances, public events and creative enterprises.
• Specialist learning spaces including flexible rehearsal spaces for academic dance courses.
• Cafes, an external roof terrace and reading garden.
• Exhibition space.
• External landscaping.
The exterior uses concrete columns over a brick façade and multi-level terraces.
The interior is open-plan allowing flexibility for the culture of the building to grow and change.
A specialist acoustic absorption system allows the library to co-exist with rehearsal studios.
Concrete slabs create a thermo active system which uses building mass to heat and cool the interior. Solar panels provide electricity and the building is very air-tight with high levels of insulation and built-in heat recovery systems. The building achieves a rating of BREEAM Excellent.
Watch the Phoenix Rising film here https://www.kingston.ac.uk/kingston-spotlight/