University of Warwick Student Union by MJP Architects
The triangular roof above the cafe-bar at Warwick University’s renovated student union features a tessellated underside of polished copper.
London studio MJP Architects refurbished the building at the campus in Coventry, England, in 2009.
The building provides multipurpose rooms, mezzanine and balcony bars, a nightclub and performance venues, accessed through a central, double-height atrium.
Timber louvers control the levels of daylight that enter this atrium through a glazed roof above.
The cafe and bar are contained within an extension, where the shiny copper roof provides both a ceiling inside the building and a shelter over the decked balconies outside.
If you're a fan of shiny copper surfaces, check out our earlier stories about a boutique with a polished wall and a copper-clad beauty parlour.
Photography is by Peter Durant.
Here's some more explanation from MJP Architects:
Student Union, University of Warwick, Coventry UK
The Student Union is the main provider and organiser of non-academic activity on the University campus and its success has a significant impact on the student experience at the University of Warwick. The scale and reputation of its Student Union is a major factor in prospective students’ choice of any Higher Education Institution. Matthew Dodds, Warwick Boar (the student newspaper) says: “The new building hits all the right notes for me. The Union as it stands now is exactly the right blend of old and new, evoking both a feeling of nostalgia and refreshing promise”
The building was originally designed as a multi-purpose administrative building whose brief was changed to a Student Union whilst under construction in the early 1970’s. By the time MJP were commissioned, it had become even less suitable for today’s needs, having neither the flexibility nor the environmental performance to accommodate the range of activities expected of a modern Student Union building. A bespoke brief for the remodelling of the building was needed, and this was created through careful consultation between the University, the end user and the architect.
Claire Horton, General Manager at the Student Union says: “The building is truly phenomenal and exactly as envisioned… and will deliver student and commercial services like never before”
Sculpting the Existing Fabric:
MJP’s new design was generated from the most striking features of the existing building: the arrangement of interiors based on a sixty degree planning grid and the distinctive triangular concrete coffered soffits. The new cafe extension is the most obvious example of this approach. Its interiors are based on the triangular plan and the floating roof’s polished copper underside provides a striking backdrop to the Student Union Plaza outside, and a clear entrance to the building.
The highly rational structure of the old building and the rough and heavy expression of the concrete slabs and walls provided inspiration for the redesign. Exposing or hiding the original fabric and using materials that contrasted or blended with it were the basic strategies in the interior design. Large surfaces of shiny copper, light and translucent polycarbonate, soft and warm timber and rough and cold ‘asphalt terrazzo’ were set-off against the in-situ concrete and concrete blocks, to highlight the peculiar qualities of the original structure and hide the inevitable areas of lower quality.
A Platform for Talent:
The strategy for the new Student Union was to create a series of spaces with different scales and characters: performance spaces, balcony bars, multi-purpose venues, an atrium pub, a club and dancefloors.
The existing building was quite literally opened-up to create two and three storey high spaces, to reveal internal vistas, let light in and give views out. Joe Wrigley, Project Architect at MJP Architects says: “What I really like is that the building is just about perfect for all sizes and genres of music. 'The Copper Rooms' is the main venue, and it has quickly become a great platform for new and unsigned talent, as well as acclaimed bands… the Wild Beasts and Wombats are playing gigs this month.”
Chris Carter, who runs the venue says: “Copper Rooms 1 is an outstanding gig venue for live music. It’s the first time the Union has looked like an academy-style venue that I can remember – the stage looks incredible… the PA also sounds absolutely beautiful. It’s the best sound I’ve ever heard in a venue of this type”
Client: University of Warwick
Architect: MJP Architects
Quantity Surveyor: Northcroft
M&E Consultants: Couch Perry Wilkes
Structural Engineer: Arup
Acoustic Engineer: Bickerdike Allen Partners
Fire Consultant: Arup Fire
Main Contractor: Moss Construction