Lower Mountjoy Teaching and Learning Centre by FaulknerBrowns Architects

Lower Mountjoy Teaching

Located at the heart of the university, this important new facility offers a world class space for teaching and learning at Durham University, and has become a crucible for academic endeavour. Designed by FaulknerBrowns Architects and delivered by Space Architects and Galliford Try, the building demonstrates the benefits of a collaborative approach to design and construction.

The Vision
Central to the new University Strategy and Masterplan was the provision of enhanced teaching and learning facilities to support an increase in student numbers, enable the adoption of new pedagogies, and to create facilities that could be shared by all students rather than be aligned to specific faculties or departments. A prominent site on the edge of the Mountjoy Academic Campus was selected to embed the new facilities at the centre of academic life.

Pedagogies and Innovation
The university recognises that improved learning outcomes can be delivered by the application of new and innovative pedagogies. It was therefore crucial that the teaching and learning space design supported current and future best practice in academic delivery. To reinforce this, the building would also accommodate the Durham Centre for Academic Development, which is playing a significant part in the university’s curriculum reform programme.

FaulknerBrowns has carried out independent research into how spatial design can support the success of innovative pedagogies, including benchmarking visits to leading international business schools. Based on this research, and studies on the balance of space types at leading institutions, they developed a teaching and learning ‘space model’ which became the basis for the spatial and accommodation brief for the building, as well as the university’s forward plan for teaching and learning spaces.

Design Strategy
In the Lower Mountjoy Teaching and Learning Centre a top-lit central courtyard forms the social and circulation hub of the building giving access to the café, 250 and 500 seat lecture theatres, seminar spaces and project rooms. A diverse mix of teaching spaces surrounds the lecture theatres, supporting traditional seminars as well as macro-collaboration and micro-collaboration pedagogies. Cellular project rooms provide an extremely valuable ‘workplace like’ environment for self-guided group work and support innovative pedagogies such as flipped learning.

Responding to a World Heritage Site
Durham is an historic city and its UNESCO World Heritage Site, containing the cathedral and castle, exerts a strong influence over the character of the university estate. The site chosen for the teaching and learning centre is situated on the edge of the city centre, adjacent to a conservation area and within view of the World Heritage Site. In this highly sensitive location the incorporation of an 8,000m2, three storey building presented a challenge.

To ensure the new centre integrated sensitively with the urban fabric, the overall building volume was broken down into an assemblage of smaller repeated elements to relate more closely to the prevailing grain of the city. Each module has two façade types: a ‘fenestrated’ façade generally on the long face, and a ‘gable’ façade to the short face. Each module is capped by an asymmetric pyramidal roof with a central rooflight. Twelve of these modules, rotated and handed, create the overall plan layout and building volume, with one of the central elements being ‘removed’ to create a focal internal courtyard.

An Integrated Solution
The centre has been designed to BREEAM ‘Excellent’ standard and to deliver EPC ‘A’ rated energy performance. Thin film photovoltaics embedded within the courtyard roof glazing, together with a combined heat and power unit, make a significant contribution to onsite renewable energy generation. A mixed-mode ventilation strategy is also employed. Natural ventilation is provided from the louvre panels next to the windows, controlled by the Building Management System. Transfer grilles in the rear of the teaching spaces exhaust warm air to the atrium where it is discharged through the rooflights via natural stack effect. Source by FaulknerBrowns Architects.

  • Location: Durham, UK
  • Architect: FaulknerBrowns Architects
  • Delivery Architects: Space Architects
  • Project Manager / Quantity Surveyor / Cost Consultant: Turner & Townsend
  • Structural / Civil Engineering (Design Stages): Buro Happold
  • Structural / Civil Engineering (Delivery Phase): Cundall
  • Environmental / M&E Engineers (Design Stages): Buro Happold
  • Environmental / M&E Engineers (Delivery Phase): Cundall
  • Planning Consultant: DPP
  • Landscape (Design Stages): Land Use Consultants
  • Landscape (Delivery Phase): OOBE
  • BREEAM Assessor: Cundall
  • Clerk of Works: Hickton (on behalf of Durham University)
  • Main Contractor: Galliford Try
  • Client: Durham University
  • Gross internal area: 8,250m2
  • Construction cost: £25,000,000
  • Completion date: September 2019
  • Photographs: Jack Hobhouse, David Cadzow, Kristen McCluskie, Courtesy of FaulknerBrowns Architects

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