O'Donnell + Tuomey complete faceted brick
student centre at London School of Economics

| 12 comments
 

Irish architects O'Donnell + Tuomey mapped sight lines along the narrow streets of the London School of Economics campus to generate the faceted red brick structure of the university's new student centre (+ slideshow).

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

The Saw Swee Hock Student Centre consolidates all of the university's student facilities under one roof at the LSE's historic Aldwych campus. Designed by architects Sheila O'Donnell and John Tuomey, the seven-storey-high building has an irregular faceted shape informed by the angular geometries of its site and surroundings.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

Walls angle inwards along the eastern facade to give the centre a recessed public entrance that lines up with approaching streets to the north, south and east.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

"The public space at the threshold of the student union, on axis with St Clement's Lane, creates a place of exchange; a spatial bowtie that intertwines circulation routes, splices visual connections between internal and external movement, and pulls pedestrian street life into and up the building," said the architects.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

"Like a Japanese puzzle, our design is carefully assembled to make one coherent volume from a complex set of interdependent component parts," they added.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

Red brick was used to construct the walls of the building using a typical flemish bond. In some places the material forms solid walls, while in others it creates perforated screens across windows.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

"The perforated planes are constructed from a single leaf of brickwork with spaces in the flemish bond pattern to allow light to both infiltrate the interior spaces and filtrate out at night to create a pattern effect," said the architects.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

Spaces within the building accommodate a variety of functions, including an events venue, a bar, a cafe, a gym and dance studios. There are also prayer rooms, offices and multimedia facilities.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

Designed to resemble a "lived-in warehouse", the building has an exposed structure that combines steel columns and trusses with concrete floor slabs.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

Floor plates differ in shape and size on different floors. Angular stairwells are positioned at three corners of the building, while a spiral staircase is positioned near the entrance.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

"Space flows freely in horizontal plan and vertical section, with stairs gently twisting and slowly turning to create a variety of diagonal break-out spaces at landings and crossings throughout the building," said the architects.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

An assortment of windows and skylights ensure that each corridor receives daylight, and an events hall in the basement can be naturally lit though a row of clerestory windows.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

The building will open next month, but its surrounding landscaping is not set to be finished until the summer.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

Photography is by Dennis Gilbert/VIEW.

Here's a project description from O’Donnell+Tuomey Architects:


Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, London School of Economics

Client Brief

The brief was to bring student facilities together under one roof. The multi-functional building includes a venue, pub, learning café, media, prayer, offices, gym, careers, dance studio and social spaces. The brief asked for the "best student building in the UK" and had the aspiration for BREEAM Excellent rating. The design achieved BREEAM Outstanding.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

Planning Constraints

The site lies within the Strand Conservation Area. The context was complex and the site was restricted by surrounding building lines. Specifications were closely monitored by Westminster planners, who supported the ambition for a contemporary design integrated with its setting. Throughout the building process, the planners maintained a commitment to the enduring quality of carefully crafted construction.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

Street Life

The site is located at the knuckle-point convergence of narrow streets that characterise the LSE city centre campus. The faceted facade operates with respect to the Rights of Light Envelope and is tailored to lines of sight, to be viewed from street corner perspectives and to make visual connections between internal and external circulation. The brick skin is cut along fold lines to form large areas of glazing, framing views. Analysis of the context has influenced the first principles of a site specific architectural design.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

Embodiment

The building is designed to embody the dynamic character of a contemporary Student Centre. The complex geometries of the site provided a starting point for a lively arrangement of irregular floor plates, each particular to its function. Space flows freely in plan and section, with stairs turning to create meeting places at every level.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

Construction, Colour and Atmosphere

London is a city of bricks. The building is clad with bricks, with each brick offset from the next in an open work pattern, creating dappled daylight inside and glowing like a lattice lantern at night.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

The building has the robust adaptability of a lived-in warehouse, with solid wooden floors underfoot. The structure is a combination of reinforced concrete and steelwork. Steel trusses or ribbed concrete slabs span the big spaces. Circular steel columns prop office floors between the large span volumes and punctuate the open floor plan of the café. Concrete ceilings contribute thermal mass with acoustic clouds suspended to soften the sound.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

There are no closed-in corridors. Every hallway has daylight and views in at least one direction. Every office workspace has views to the outside world. The basement venue is daylit from clerestory windows.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

Inclusive Design

The building is designed with accessibility and inclusive design as key considerations. Approaches are step free. Floor plates are flat without steps. Circulation routes are open and legible with clearly identifiable way-finding. Services are located at consistent locations. The central wide stair was carefully designed to comply with standards and details agreed with the approved inspector.

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

Architect: O'Donnell+Tuomey Architects
Executive Architect: O'Donnell+Tuomey Architects
Structural Engineer: Dewhurst Macfarlane and Partners/Horganlynch Consulting Engineers

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

Services + Environmental Engineer: BDSP
Security / Fire / Acoustics / Transport & Logistics / Venue: Arup
Catering: Tricon Foodservice Consultants
Access:David Bonnett Associates
Archaeology: Gifford
Project Manager: Turner & Townsend

Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics by O'Donnell + Tuomey

Quantity Surveyor: Northcroft
Planning Consultant: Turley Associates
Party Wall Consultant: Anstey Horne
Building Control Consultant: Carillion
CDM Coordinator: Gardiner & Theobald
Main Contractor (D&B): Geoffrey Osborne Limited

Ground floor plan of Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics
Ground floor plan - click for larger image
First floor plan of Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics
First floor plan - click for larger image
Second floor plan of Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics
Second floor plan - click for larger image
Third floor plan of Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics
Third floor plan - click for larger image
Fourth floor plan of Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics
Fourth floor plan - click for larger image
Fifth floor plan of Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics
Fifth floor plan - click for larger image
Sixth floor plan of Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics
Sixth floor plan - click for larger image
Basement floor plan of Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics
Basement floor plan - click for larger image
Lower basement floor of Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics
Lower basement floor - click for larger image
Section one of Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics
Section one - click for larger image
Section two of Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics
Section two - click for larger image
Section three of Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics
Section three - click for larger image
  • Nessan Shaw

    Wow, all those pictures and all those windows – not a single one looking out through the brick lattice, even in the distance. Does it look bad or something?

  • Dezmond

    Rather Herzog & de Meuron Tate Modern-ish! Also the concrete stairs, spiral stairs etc.

  • PhilipP

    Why are there no pictures looking out through the bricked over windows, they seem to be such a key part of the scheme.

  • cb

    This is a fabulous building. I walk past it everyday and have enjoyed watching its formation. It’s great to see what it looks like from the inside although I’d also like a lattice view.

    One slippage alas – the galvanised bike stands on the northern side are very very crude. Please LSE find the funds to put up a bike shed worthy of its surroundings.

  • http://www.libertydisciple.com/ The Liberty Disciple

    I’m going to say this. I hate seeing site lines. This is such a tired out, architecture school method. It’s not interesting, it’s really simple to lay down and then add on to.

    There are dozens of more interesting ways to approach a project, and I am tired of seeing connect-the-dots in 3D. It lends each project to looking pleasing as a drawing, but later ignores it’s real context, environment, and most important, the views.

    Want to cut off a project off from potential views to it’s surrounding? Connect dots on paper and ignore looking out.

    I suppose for a school on Economics, being ignorant of the surrounding is currently a theme.

    Outside of that, I really enjoy seeing masonry used in this fashion. It’s unfortunate that the stairways are so heavy, as the open bricks appeal to a sense of lightness. The materiality is also nice with the reshuffling of their order.

    Just please, no more site line models.

  • Derek_V

    What a mess!
    Seriously. How does such a design get commissioned?

  • frank

    There is something unsettling about this building. It’s like seeing otherwise sensible people inebriated and dancing very badly at some obscure wedding. Despite the irregularity of the site the language is muddled and its complexity seems over-contrived.

    I have always admired these architects and enjoyed much of their work and it’s poetic quality. I would have expected it to become a little more nuanced and quieter. Of course, one must also butter one’s bread :/

  • mitate

    Having laid hand on the sublimely finished concrete of a staircase in Chipperfield’s Neues Berlin, it’s just as well that I’ll never lay hand on the concrete of the staircase above. Form, function…and feel.

  • jack

    Slipping into the ugly realm of po-mo I’m afraid…

  • Red squirrel

    If we’re going to compare, let’s make sure we know which came first.

  • LSE Students’ Union

    The building doesn’t open next month: it’s already open! It’s already full of student activity but the public’s welcome too. Grab a coffee on the 6th floor or a pint in the ground floor bar and see the building for yourself!

  • T,.T

    Absoutely Brick-lliant