Arup Associates’ architecture and engineering design for Coventry University’s new Faculty of Engineering and Computing embraces the university’s progressive, experiential approach to teaching these subjects.
The environmentally led design encourages an open and free exchange of ideas across disciplines. This creates new synergies within an activity-led, project-based learning approach.
Relatively modest in scale, the BREEAM ‘Excellent’ building emphasises and celebrates people and the learning experience while making use of radical technical innovation.
From the strategic level to the smallest detail, the design team focussed on how people would experience the building, which meant working closely with the client throughout the project. Arup Associates did this through workshops exploring the university’s vision for its new faculty.
“The building has been hugely successful. We know from regular student surveys that satisfaction is at a very high level. Students use the building’s open and collaborative spaces both socially and academically, working together in groups or as individuals.”
Gerry Ackerman – Deputy Director of Estates and Property, Coventry University
With the university keen to give students every possible opportunity to learn practically, Arup Associates conceived an approach whereby the building itself would become a learning tool.
The result is a highly readable building offering a rich, dynamic experience. Engineering students can study the forces at work on the concrete and steel, and they can see how services wind their way around the building.
In one zone, floating podular spaces known as ‘the planets’ hang from structural steelwork, giving students the chance to experience the forces at work on a practical level. Meanwhile, exposed services are closely coordinated into electrical, mechanical and public health zones so that students can follow their path around the building.
“The building is part of the learning experience. All the services are exposed and the main plant room has a high-level gangway that enables students to look down on the biomass and gas boilers and other equipment. Students can also access plant on the roof, while a video wall at reception displays information from the BMS that helps people understand how the building works.”
- Gerry Ackerman – Deputy Director of Estates and Property, Coventry University
The building incorporates:
- A high-performance engineering centre with flight simulators and engine test cells
- A high-precision wind tunnel testing facility
- Two lecture theatres that can be subdivided for conferences
- Collaborative classrooms for 4,000 students, including IT workspaces
- Communal interactive spaces with learning booths
- Integrated academic offices, driving new research and teaching
- All linked by a state-of-the-art communications backbone
Proportion and mathematical beauty has been studied and used in architecture since antiquity. In this spirit, the concept defining the footprint of the building was based on pure geometrical shapes and Ptolemy’s Theorem. Through close collaboration with the architects, we combined this with the theory of Harmonic Proportions.
The final geometry has a perfect square as the outer boundary of the footprint, while the inner boundary creates a perfect Ptolemy’s quadrilateral and with all primary line intersections being perfect harmonic ratios.
The biggest challenge was generating a footprint geometry that would result in a building of the required total floor area of 14,000m2. Through persistence and great teamwork, we were able to achieve this through several studies and a series of iterations.
- 2013 - Built in Quality Awards, Winner, Higher Education Category
- 2013 - RIBA Awards, Winner, Regional Higher Education Category