Day visit to Roehampton University

Date & Time:23rd January 2018

University of Roehampton

Over fifty delegates ventured to SW London to discover the University of Roehampton’s campus with historic and modern buildings set in a leafy landscape derived from when this was originally a series of country houses away from the centre of London, and recently transformed with three key buildings as part of its estate development masterplan.

Setting the context, Reggie Blennerhassett, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Director of Finance for the University, described the university’s objectives for the masterplan, in which the new library and new student residences were key parts, along with the creation of a new avenue connecting the buildings.  Essential to gaining support from Wandsworth planners was demonstration and recognition of the economic contribution the university makes in the Borough.

The university made the bold decision to raise the funds to complete all three buildings, to transform the experience for students on campus and, with three different architectural practices working at the same time, ensure coordination and synergy, while each building is different and responds to its own brief and site opportunities and constraints.

The Masterplan was described in more detail by Simon Henley and Noel Cash from by Henley Hale Brown, who later also outlined the design philosophy for Chadwick Hall which comprises three new student residential blocks responding to the context of two radically different historic buildings – the 18th century Georgian Downshire House and the 20thcentury Brutalist Alton West Estate, plus historic landscape features.  Hugo Marrack from Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios presented on the new Library which provides a modern library and learning environment around a central staircase, with stunning views out across the landscape, and Michael Ritchie of MJP Architects presented on the adjacent Conference Centre and new Elm Grove student residences, designed around two quadrangles which take lessons about community from Oxbridge precedents.  An aim of both residential developments is to engender the sense of community and identity for the students living there and, also through the views out across the campus, reinforce the sense of identity with the university itself.

The day included a discussion on the increased importance of residences as part of university life, which was key to Roehampton’s brief, with an additional contribution from David Campbell from student residential provider Alumno and Ghazwa Alwani-Starr, previously at Roehampton and now at The University of London, outlining the work being done with the GLA to input into the London Plan and support future university development in London.

When, so often, estates masterplans are implemented in a piecemeal fashion, it is good to see what Roehampton has achieved with these three well-designed projects, including insisting that it was building for the long term and would maintain a focus on quality, even when cost and other pressures were tight.

Many thanks to all the contributors and to the University of Roehampton for hosting the event.