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Giving back – Adding Value in Education through Living Architecture

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bpr are bringing architecture to life for students at Middlesex University by supporting a student-led project to design and build a Pavilion that will provide a test bed for new technologies.

For the first time in five years, students are reporting an improvement in their perceptions of value for money - according to 2018 HEPI/ Advanced HE Student Academic Experience Survey. This is up 3 points on last year’s 32% who perceived ‘good or very good’ value from their course.

Adding value, a theme very close to our hearts here at bpr, is dedicated to a whole section of the report entitled ‘value for money’. With the shift to students becoming consumers, how their money is being spent is increasingly considered in determining if their course represents ‘good value’. At the same time universities are trying to diversify their offer to differentiate themselves from other courses available on the market.

Last year Middlesex University launched their 5-year strategy for 2017 through to 2022, with a vision to become ‘The leading university for transforming potential into success’. They aim to achieve this through their mission and values as set-out in their strategy document:

Mission

Everyone at Middlesex will have the opportunities and tools to chart their path to success in a community where the experiences we create together are life-changing and our diversity is a strength and inspiration.

Values

• We put students first.

• We collaborate, achieving more by working together.

• We act fairly, with integrity, respect and purpose.

• We shape the future, continuously improving on what has gone before.’

Middlesex University’s BSc in Architectural Technology has taken these University-wide themes and made them a reality, through the collaborative ‘Pavilion Project’.

Academics Dr Tong Yang and Dr Homeira Shayesteh identified the potential of a ‘real life’ construction project as a way of applying the theoretical knowledge that students are receiving as part of their architectural technology degree. The initial concept plans included a treehouse learning hub which had been developed by students. The academic team approached the University’s Estate Projects Team which has embraced the project, providing links to industry professionals such as bpr to enable the concept to come to fruition. The course is now in its third year with each cohort having an opportunity to experience the development of the construction of the Pavilion. The premises is that this is an evolving project over a 5 year period.

As a physical embodiment of the work ongoing at Middlesex, the Pavilion Project draws together industry and academia embracing the opportunities available for both parties to learn from each other.

Living Architecture

Launched in 2018, the Pavilion Project formed a live project for the second year students enrolled on the architectural technology course. The students were given the opportunity to collaborate with industry to help make their proposals come to life. In doing so, they face the very real challenges of the planning process, value engineering and programme management. Their proposals were reviewed by Barnet’s Planning Department, bpr architects and the framework consultants for the University along with the Estates and Executive Teams.

Through an iterative process, the core aspirations of the project were defined, and locations tested. The project, which is set to evolve over the duration of the architectural technology course, has four main goals:

1.    To be a statement piece of architecture

2.    To showcase sustainable technology

3.    To have a community interface

4.    To encourage student involvement and collaboration 

bpr are supporting the project to pull together the formal planning application for the Pavilion in collaboration with course students and framework consultants. Our director, Paul Beaty-Pownall will add further value to the project by giving his time to tutor the second year students on the course from 2018 to 2019.

We have also had the privilege of providing a summer work placement for one of the students from the course, increasingly closing the links between education and practice. The links between the project and industry have been strengthened by the project attracting backing from suppliers in industry. Bauder have offered to provide green roof supplies to the project and CLT fabricators could also support the construction along with the Middlesex University Framework Contractors.  The final structure will be used by students and local community alike.

Middlesex University have existing strong links with the surrounding community. Local school children have attended site during the construction of our Ritterman Building, taking part in workshops to understand the new green walls, and the artist Drew Edwards sculpture ‘Children of the Mediterranean’, was the first piece to be located on one of the plinths outside the new science and technology facility.

It is hoped that the new Pavilion, which will be open to the public and situated along one of the main thoroughfares through the Hendon Estate, will provide a structure owned equally by both academic and local community. Other courses at the University are keen to collaborate and take ownership of Living Architecture. From the Business School who want to use it for community engagement events through to other faculties who wish to use the space as an outdoor classroom and exhibition space. The facility will become a physical embodiment of the theoretical work being undertaken by the university's students.

A Phased Approach

Linking directly back to the University’s value 'to shape the future, continuously improving on what has gone before’, the phased delivery of the Pavilion allows the architecture to come to life and to develop in line with the student curriculum and latest technologies.

The first year will deliver strategic enabling works including a foundation, timber frame, roof structure and connecting services to the location. The design of these has developed directly from student proposals and will provide an exciting statement at the heart of the campus.

The second year cohort will develop the detailed design of the works and start the onsite installation of the Pavilion. They will consider options for material specification and detailing and take part in the management of the construction process.

Homeira’s intention for the third year of the project will provide students with an opportunity to review how well the building operates for users. Additionally, developing the design brief and deliver alterations to the structure and to enhance the interior space.

Throughout the project, students will be encouraged to explore new technologies and test sustainable solutions in a live environment. The longevity of the strategy enables students to experience first-hand how well materials perform.

Dr Homeira Shayesteh the academic lead says “The Pavilion is the result of collaboration and support of many at Middlesex University and beyond including industry professionals who have helped with tutoring students at various stages. Seeing the Pavilion starting on site is an exciting achievement: we have come so far.”

We are delighted to be among the team members collaborating on the project and excited to join the students in watching their architecture come to life.