Sowing the seeds of innovation and social change

February 3, 2020

How ADP Architecture is helping education enrich the social value of our cities

At the heart of many of our cities in the North East are universities, colleges and schools.

Their role as ‘connective anchors’ is growing – stitching together the fabric of a community through its buildings, facilities and people. Academic collaboration with industry is driving change – allowing universities to lead and coordinate economic and social development at a local, regional and international level; making connections through new strategic development and social networks.

Continual collaboration is changing the way we view higher education, breaking down the historical division between ‘town’ and ‘gown’ and focusing on the university as a social asset: putting real, long-term value (both economic and human) back into the community.

Universities are stepping up to the triple challenge of managing a complex physical (and virtual) estate; the need to create stronger, deeper connections within cities and to provide an educational ecosystem that supports students’ (mental) health and wellbeing.

Unlike many industries, the university is not about to relocate: expansion might involve international campuses or online study, but the heart of a university, its personality, purpose and core principles, link intrinsically to place. As an architectural practice, ADP is supporting universities across the UK in identifying the social value of these places, exploring how the assets of social capital and expertise (the people), and the campus-wide assets of the facilities and amenities they offer, (the place), can be cultivated.

One example is in the practice’s work at the University of Leeds. The university’s £520 million masterplan, delivered by ADP, was unveiled at MIPIM five years ago and shifted thinking beyond simply mapping the flexibility and usage of built assets to consider:

• Placemaking
• Identity
• Digital and social connections
• Collaboration
• Active public realm
• Sustainability
• The ability to nurture

The university is now part of an innovation district that is both ‘virtual’ through the development of a new digital strategy and social networks – and ‘physical’, through the city’s investment strategy.

Supporting local innovation districts

The innovation district is also home to the largest teaching hospital in Europe, several other leading education institutions, including Leeds Beckett University, and backed by a bold and proactive City Council.

The jewel in the crown is ADP’s £96 million Integrated Campus for Engineering and Physical Sciences project [pictured right]). Named the Sir William Henry Bragg building and due for completion later this year, the project creates a new hub on campus for engineering and physical sciences research and teaching.

A strategically important ‘connecting anchor’ the hub provides laboratory and specialised teaching spaces and features one of the largest ‘clean rooms’ in the UK. The building aims to foster a culture of inter-disciplinary working in the development of novel materials to address 21st century challenges such as energy-efficient computing, telecommunications, ‘smart foods’ and medical technologies.

Alongside this, the practice has a number of high-profile projects in the city, not least the RIBA Award-winning Laidlaw Library and substantial refurbishments to the School of Engineering and Grade II Listed, Fine Arts buildings.

Just down the road, it is working with developer Munroe K on the development and expansion of White Rose Office Park and the proposed new White Rose Railway Station. All these developments focus on building connectivity – bridging the gap between city, industry and academia.

Closer to home, the team is appointed to the North East Universities Framework, opening up opportunities for collaboration with Newcastle, Durham, Northumbria, Teesside and Sunderland.

Collaboration in education

The relationship with Lord Laidlaw brings us rather neatly back to Newcastle, with the trust based just five minutes’ walk from the ADP studio. What started as a donation to the University of Leeds to enable the development of its first new library since 1930 has now developed into a deeper relationship with the Laidlaw Schools Trust.

The Newcastle team is working on an exciting new project at Sedgefield Community College, which involves collaborating with the Trust, school and Durham University to create a teacher training and leadership hub.

According to trust chief executive Susanna Kempe, the hub will help to, “recruit, develop and inspire exceptional teachers, making the North East the epicentre of teaching excellence in the country.”

The scheme will be submitted for planning shortly, following a positive pre-application process and public consultation in late 2019.

Newcastle associate director Alex Proctor is working with the trust on the Sedgefield scheme, and at Excelsior Academy, where plans to create a new ‘centre for literacy’ are in the early stages of development.

ADP Architecture

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