TRANSFORMING A TIRED STRUCTURE INTO A MULTI-USE UNIVERSITY BUILDING
The Richmond Building has been stripped back and returned to its important role at the centre of the University's Clifton Campus. Still home to its original occupier, the Student Union, it also houses cultural, performance, teaching, study and social functions.
Built in 1965 its purpose was to meet the pastoral, recreational and social needs of an expanding student population living away from home.
Over the past 50 years, a series of ad-hoc changes to the interior has made the spaces cluttered and inflexible. Asbestos was present throughout the building, the fabric leaked energy, resulting in extremely high running costs, and neighbours found the building ugly, noisy, and incongruous in the Clifton Conservation Area. Our task was to make the Richmond Building welcoming, accessible, inclusive, environmentally efficient, and spatially hard-working.
For my own part, it has been a great joy to prove that iconic 60s buildings can be transformed into handsome new spaces, while achieving genuinely stretching sustainability targets.
Patrick Finch, Bursar and Director of Estates, University of Bristol
WHY INVEST IN AN UNDERAPPRECIATED 1960S BUILDING?
The principal reason was sustainability.
The building’s concrete and steel frame was in good health. To demolish and re-build would have been a far less sustainable option as the embodied energy associated with a building's construction accounts for a major part of its lifetime CO2 emissions.
During a four-phased construction programme, throughout which the building remained open, an ‘excavation’ of the interior took place. Redundant services were stripped out and renewed and the layout reconfigured to create flexible spaces that could be used throughout the day and into the evening.
A new glazing design, combined with new layouts, allowed a shift to natural ventilation for many of the spaces. The existing concrete soffits have been left exposed throughout, providing thermal mass to help regulate internal temperatures.
The combination of re-using the existing building and radically improving how it operates has resulted in a BREEAM 'Excellent' rating and an EPC certification that has moved from E to B, helping to meet the University’s exacting sustainability targets.
REVITALISED AND RE-FIT FOR PURPOSE
The building's transformation needed to be approached with care for not only its architectural significance as a Modernist building, but also for the Georgian setting of the Clifton Conservation Area.
The University has gained an additional 2,500 sqm of accommodation and reduced its running costs and environmental impact.
The new front extension, though a small part of the overall floor area, was fundamental to unlocking the original building's potential, providing a welcoming, dramatic and accessible entrance hall and space for new changing facilities for the swimming pool.
The invigorating work done to this weary building has provided students a focal point for their social and learning requirements in an attractive, flexible series of spaces, which can grow with them.