[The University of Leicester]

University of Leicester Development Plan 2002

Shepheard Epstein Hunter Draft Final Report

1. The Need for Development
2. In the City of Leicester
3. Central Campus - key sites
4. Other sites in the City of Leicester 5. In Oadby and Wigston 6. General Policies 7. Phasing and Implementation
3. Central Campus - key sites

3. Central Campus - key sites

A new Central Square at the heart of the campus

The Attenborough and Engineering Buildings

The Fielding Johnson and Library Buildings

Catering and the Charles Wilson Building

The Percy Gee Building - a new square onto University Road

The Bennett Building, the Sciences and the Medical School


A new Central Square at the heart of the campus

Four floors of proposed mixed-use development to provide a new frontage on to Central Square.

The Attenborough Building

The Attenborough Building was built in 1968 - 70 to provide academic offices for Arts and Social Sciences. The original intention to add a further two similar adjacent towers was abandoned.

The building is now used for a number of purposes including teaching. The vertical circulation provision to serve the eighteen floors consists of a small passenger lift, a paternoster lift and a narrow staircase. These limited means of vertical access are inappropriate for the large number of students that now use the building.

The small footprint of each floor of this high rise building makes it unsuitable for general academic teaching use where ease of communication and contact is critical to both the development of ideas and the control and management of the department.

In view of the fundamental and inappropriate qualities of this building we recommend that the present uses of this building be relocated to new buildings on the new Central Square, in the heart of the campus, adjacent to central teaching facilities and close to the library.

With regard to the future use of the Attenborough Building we recommend that a full structural and fabric condition survey is carried out. There are a number of problems that have been associated with pre-cast concrete panels dating from this period and the University will need to be assured of the remaining life of the structure of the building before investing in conversion for alternative uses.

The canted window units present a number of problems. They are single glazed, allowing excessive heat loss, and offer no protection to solar gain. The opening sections to the sides of some of the windows are distorted and cannot close properly which results in excessive wind noise and drafts. The pre-cast concrete panel wall-units in which the windows are housed have inadequate insulation.

Subject to the results of a detailed condition survey as recommended above it will be possible to prepare fully costed options for the future use of the building, which could be as office accommodation for academic or administrative purposes that would not attract high volumes of visitors.

An alternative option would be conversion to student residential use. We have prepared a sketch proposal (see below) which indicates that the existing floor plan could be re-planned to provide ten en-suite study bedrooms together with a kitchen / dining room per floor.

Seen in the context of the other proposals of the Development Plan possible new residential accommodation would relate directly to the proposed new catering and seminar facilities in the new central square, which would in turn be linked, via the new first floor walkway, to the Fielding Johnson Building and the Library.

Such a proposal would bring some residential use onto the campus which would be highly sought after by students, and equally desirable for use as part of a small conference facility.

The Attenborough Building and the Engineering Building

The Engineering Building

A famous landmark (for architects anyway), and a listed building, the Development Plan seeks to protect and enhance the axial approach to the main entrance, by creating new squares and removing the foreground clutter of car parking and low-rise expedient buildings.

The Plan proposes that the landscape to the north of the podium should be improved, and in conjunction with the design of the new adjacent block, seeks to create a much improved space which forms the main entrance to the campus from Victoria Park.

We also show a possible additional avenue in the park which would reinforce both the impact of the Engineering Building as a landmark and the new central route through the campus.

A new southward extension is proposed as possible expansion space. Internally the building should be refurbished in due course in accordance with the responsibilities imposed under Listed Buildings legislation.

The requirements of the future for the School of Engineering need to be determined in due course.


Pevsner on the Attenborough Building

Tallest tower of all, eighteen monotonous storeys, prickly with window units angled out from top to bottom of the pre-cast concrete panels, a feature more successful inside than out. No imposing internal spaces, just small rooms round a central spine (with paternoster lifts) linked by a bridge to a simpler block to the south. Three storeys above a podium (because of the fall of the site) with underground lecture rooms.

Pevsner on the Engineering Building

Expressive of contemporary trends but, like much of the architects' work, inimitably individual. The complex geometry with oblique angles and oblique entrance is part of an escape from the classical 'box' tradition of early Le Corbusier and the English neo-Platonists such as Leslie Martin.

The Fielding Johnson Building and the Library

When first opened in 1974 the five storey award-winning Library building was seen as a prestigious facility which reflected well on the intellectual status of the University.

It was envisaged at that time that an extension would be added to the building within a few years, and the south wall was designed as a temporary facade which still bears witness today to the fact that the completion of the building is yet to happen.

The growth of the campus around the Library building (originally designed for 3500 students) means that there is currently a 50% shortfall between the current provision and the appropriate space requirement based on reasonable norms.

The improvement of the Library to suit its status as a key central facility, and part of the hub of the University, is of prime importance.

Since the mid 1970s the role of university libraries has changed from repositories of knowledge through the medium of the printed word to mixed-media learning resource centres.

Hard copies of books and magazines will continue to be housed in the existing building - its structure is designed for abnormal loadings of book stacks. We are proposing that the new extension will be built to normal office loadings and will provide computing rooms, learning rooms, and reading rooms.

The proposal to double the size of the Library with an extension to the south raises the question of where the entrance to the Library should be located. With a 'double square' rectangular plan it would not be efficient to place the entrance in the middle of the short side.

The relationship between the existing library building and the north elevation of the Fielding Johnson Building is unresolved at present and appears as unwanted left-over space. There is a first floor link bridge between the two buildings but otherwise there is no interface.

The Fielding Johnson Building is perceived as the historic centre of the campus. The main building, built in 1837, is of two storeys with a three-storey central block and corner pavilions. In the middle of the central block to the south elevation is a three-bay pediment. There is a pedimented door surround to the main entrance . The elevation faces out on to a large lawn and presents the historic face of the institution.

This Development Plan seeks to incorporate this currently under-valued asset into a key pedestrian route which links the ground floor entrance of the Fielding Johnson Building with the extended library.

The space between the two new buildings will be glazed over and treated as an arcade or galleria leading into an large entrance hall which to the left would give access into the secure Book Library and to the right to the more public areas of the Learning Resource Centre.

In this context the existing north facade of the Library (currently the main entrance) will be the main catering provision for library users with the opportunity for tables to spill out on to a lively urban square.

In order to further enhance the bustling quality of this town square the ground floor of the Library should be refurbished and re-glazed with clear glass to provide a transparent, busy and populated face to the square (in contrast to the existing tinted glass).

We recommend that the University consider additional lively uses suitable for a ground floor, such as the main University bookshop, with a small cafe/bar.

Pevsner on the Fielding Johnson Building

' ...grim not undignified...' Originally Leicestershire Lunatic Asylum. Wings extended in 1848 - 9 by Parsons & Dain, with other extensions the last being by Pick Everard Keay and Gimson in 1947-8 which added the fourth (east ) side of the quadrangle. Library built across the centre of the courtyard in 1952-4 by Shirley B Worthington. Half the west range and most of the north range demolished around 1970 when new library built.

Pevsner on The Library

...replacing a quarter of the Fielding Johnson Building and designed to extend east to replace another side of it. An apparently glass-walled cube, neutral in form...set back to reflect its disparate neighbours....Effective from the front but not truthful...a concrete framed building with one brick wall, one temporary metal wall and two glass skins trapping a buffer of still air. ...dissappointingly drab but functiionally efficient interior.

Catering and The Charles Wilson Building

The Existing Situation

There are eleven catering outlets provided by the University Catering Services, seven of which are in the Charles Wilson Building:

Ground floor coffee shop
Cafe Piazza
Piazza 2 Go
Snappers Diner (1st floor)
Garendon Restaurant (4th floor)
Senior Common Room (5th floor)

Three are elsewhere on the main campus:

Percy Gee Building - The Venue Food Court
Rattray - Planets Coffee Bar
Maurice Schock Building - MSB Coffee Shop

One is on Princess Road:

School of Education - Eddies Coffee Bar

The present catering facilities in the Charles Wilson Building do not meet the needs of the University community. Their location in a high-rise, vertically planned building requires large quantities of food and drink, and their consumers, to be transported over seven floors.

This cannot have been a convenient arrangement when the building was first opened, but with the subsequent increase in student numbers and the quickening pace of life, where grabbing a quick snack has taken the place of the lunch hour, we must conclude that the current arrangements are unfit for their purpose.

It is difficult to see how any effective long-term improvements can be effected while the major catering venues remain in the Charles Wilson Building.

What is needed:

choice of menus and venues
easy access to and understanding of what is being offered
prompt service
pleasant environment
economic pricing
quality food
healthy food
central location
a variety of outlets

Options for Management

As existing - the University Catering Services
Franchise outlets
External catering management

We recommend the relocation of the catering facilities to a new facility with a frontage on to the new Central Square in the form of a ground floor, free-flow food court with service counter with adjacent food preparation areas.

On the first floor could be a suite of private dining rooms and a waitress service restaurant. The food court would offer a number of separate cafe/bar venues (for example: Park Cafe, Courtyard Salad Bar, Mayors Parlour) in addition to the existing venues - Cafe Piazza, The Planets Coffee Shop, MSB Coffee Shop, and Eddies Coffee Bar which would be retained.


Pevsner on the Charles Wilson Building from - 'The Buildings of England'

Designed to complement the Percy Gee Building, with facilities for the increase from 1500 - 4000 students aimed at in the early 1960's. It took the place of the Council and Senate Building Martin added to his plan. In Lasdun's favourite exposed concrete with his familiar stressed horizontals and contrasting chimney -like service tower.

The disproportionately small top section of four storeys is a mannerism, not a necessity: the way it is mounted on the stem, the plant room, above a broad six-storey tower, weighted by a podium, is the kind of exaggerated balancing act Lasdun practices elsewhere, e.g.: at the Royal College of Physicians (1961-4). Double height foyer with overhanging mezzanine (offices) and exposed concrete also a typical feature.

Projecting from the tower at ground-floor level, the sports hall (N), bank and bookshop (S) and snack bar (E) overlooking Victoria Park. On each of the five floors above, a restaurant (not all used as such) served from a kitchen in the podium. One common room (now teaching and computer rooms) in each of the upper floors. Good views from the continuous window slots up the chamfered corners of the building.

The Percy Gee Building

The Percy Gee Building was designed to house the main refectory and hall for the University and was opened by the Queen in 1958. It became the home for the Students' Union in 1969/70.

It is, essentially, a U-shaped building with a large hall on the ground floor and extensive basements. The building has three main levels but each of the floors is arranged on different levels because of the slope of the site. The Union have, over the years, invested a great deal in the refurbishment of the building to meet their needs. However, the basic form of the building and its siting render it unfit for its present purpose.

The multiplicity of levels and general layout of the building provide access problems for pedestrians and limited and tortuous access for people using wheelchairs and service trolleys. The delivery access and service yard are inadequate and sited facing on to the main entrance of the campus. The various venues are so located within the building that the opportunity to connect them to provide flexibility and different formats to suit different occasions is very limited.

In particular, the separation of the bar areas from the disco floors is extremely disadvantageous, both for the students entertainment and the commercial management of the buildings. The size of the building is considered to be adequate - it is the interrelationship between the spaces that renders the building unsuitable as the Union.

Generally the bars, discos and eating areas would be best sited adjacent on a single level with the possibility of opening them up to form larger connected spaces, offering a series of variable size venues to meet the many different needs of the student entertainment calendar.

In the existing building the various management offices are scattered around the building. This works against efficient management practices and towards isolation and a lack of communication. Ideally the offices should be grouped together in a unit that is easily accessible to all.

The Union Shop, recently refurbished, occupies part of the east wing of the ground floor. It has no window frontage. The shop has a limited range of stock which does not include groceries. The location of residential accommodation off the main campus means that there is only a small demand as the Union cannot compete with supermarket prices or their range of goods.

Whilst everyone does know the location of the shop the campus would benefit from the animation and interest that even a few shop fronts can bring to the street scene. Within the Union building are also housed the Travel Centre, Employment Office , Print Shops, Bank - enough in fact to create a small parade of shops.

The Union does have to compete with external commercial enterprises that have deliberately targeted the 'student pound' and have opened up local pubs adjacent to universities to this end.

The 'Its a Scream' chain have opened two outlets - The Dry Dock and the Loaded Dog - very close to the main campus. In the face of such competition the Union must continually upgrade its own facilities and manage the building effectively and efficiently. Within this context the present accommodation is difficult to run and the Unions long-term future may not be best served by staying in the Percy Gee Building.

It is essential that the Union Building is located a the heart of the campus. It is the hub of student social life and its presence ensures activity and animation. The redevelopment of the central areas of the main campus will create opportunities to relocate the Union to a building more suited to its needs.

The Student Union aims to provide facilities for all students however because of the age difference and other reasons post graduate students often consider that their needs and taste in entertainment are overshadowed by those of the undergraduate student population.

Given that post graduate students (including distance learners) account for some 45% of the student body this should be addressed.

We suggest it would be preferable for the Student Union to be able to serve the whole of its constituency within one facility offering a full range of facilities including, for example, quiet reading rooms and classical music venues rather than have separate locations for under- and post- graduates.

If, as proposed, the catering facilities are relocated into the New Square development then the Charles Wilson Building could be a possible option for the future Students Union Building. The existing Percy Gee Building could be extensively refurbished and extended to form part of the new University Square development, which would house mainly academic accommodation.

Bennett Building and the Sciences

The Sciences occupy a clearly defined quarter of the campus in fairly low-rise buildings. Subject to structural and cost feasibility we propose that further floors be added either by strengthening the existing structure or by bridging over the existing buildings.

The additional upper floors would be designed to take office loadings only and offices on the existing floors would be relocated so that laboratories and workshops could be extended on the lower floors.

The Bennett Building: upper levels, above and ground level, below

Medical School

Consideration is currently being given to the possibility of relocating the Medical School to a new site associated with the Leicester General Hospital in a context in which the government favours a broad-based professional approach to medical education with doctors being trained alongside nurses and other members of the medical team.

Significant growth in the number of medical students from 2003 has been approved by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). Viewed within this context, the growth and continued excellence of the Medical School may best be assured if it moves to a hospital base.

Medical students will be living in the context of a broad-spectrum of other professional members of the medical team. The retention on campus of anatomy teaching facilities and medical research will ensure that at the University of Leicester there will be a rich tapestry of interdisciplinary contact.

Medical Research

Medical research activities will continue on the Lancaster Road site. Work is about to start on the new £20m bio-medical sciences research building and there is room for further expansion to the west.

Hospital Sites

The University holds medical research space within the three existing hospital sites in Leicester which is an integral part of the reorganisation programme of hospital accommodation currently being prepared by the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.


Shepheard Epstein Hunter

020 7841 7500


Estates Office, Fielding Johnson Building, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH

Tel: 0116 252 2502

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