Coventry Hub, designed by Hawkins\Brown demonstrates an innovative new approach to the provision of student facilities and
learning environments in the UK, bringing them together under one roof. Creating a home from home
for the 10,000 students enrolled at the University, the new building is a one-stop-shop responding to
students' key needs for wellness and wellbeing by providing a place to visit during the day for social
and informal learning needs whilst creating a safe environment during the evening for entertainment.
Students are able to access employment opportunities and career services within a 24/7 accessible building which has been designed with state-of-the-art IT, networking and security facilities. In an increasingly competitive market to attract students, the new building is intended to be at the heart of the student experience, providing added value to maximise student footfall and achieve higher levels of student satisfaction.
The site for the new building lies at the heart of the University campus and the city centre, in the historic quarter famed for the new Coventry Cathedral, a post-war modernist icon by Sir Basil Spence.
The facade is key feature of the new building with the principle cladding material—a unitized flush glazed curtain walling system—wrapped around the building like a taut skin or hard shell. The glass shell rises to its maximum height at either end of the L-shaped building and touches the ground at the knuckle of the L where the reception is located. With its close proximity to Coventry Cathedral, it was inevitable that the exterior of the Hub would draw inspiration from the use of artist designed decorative glass; the glazing is patterned with a ceramic frit that enlivens the facade and creates a surface texture with depth. Coventry Hub has a clean unbroken sightline in order to emphasize the dramatic sculptural form of the building—the surface of the facade is absolutely flush.
The L-shaped plan and its location re-instates and strengthens circulation across the campus and the city and at the same time forms an enclosed service yard for both the University and the neighbouring Herbert Art Gallery. The main East-West route across campus has been widened and allows for a long view of the cathedral spire. External courtyards have been created within the depth of the plan protected by a large bright yellow steel gate. Along the north and east elevation the building recesses at ground floor level to provide shelter on the approach to the main entrances to the Hub. To maximise the opportunity for 'green spaces' a roof terrace has been created with views across extensive areas of the sedum roof.
2,800 sqm of space within the building is allocated to Informal Learning and at first floor level the space extends over 100m along the northern perimeter. This hi-tech, flexible, social and learning environment, open 24/7 can accommodate 1,000 students at any one time. It is a fusion of library and common room – if the Hub as a whole is 'home from home' – informal learning is the 'living room' for the campus. Responding to a growing trend of students living at home with their parents and travelling in to the University for the day, Informal Learning provides a place for students to pass time between lectures – to socialize, relax or carry out private study. It also caters for unguided learning and facilitates ad-hoc tutorials, peer-to-peer learning and allows learning groups to become part of a larger community. As both students and staff can use the facility it allows for disciplines to cross and breaks down the traditional barrier between students and teachers.
The design rejects conventional rooms in favour of playful bright yellow bespoke furniture – 'booths and nests' – which are of a sufficient size in themselves to sub-divide the space further and provide small-scale semi-enclosed interiors. All the bespoke furniture comes complete with power and large flat screens to work in tandem with laptops (personal or available on loan from the reception) with a wireless network available throughout the building (including the roof terrace), providing all the facilities required for activities ranging from private research to group tutorials. Playing on the idea of a 'home from home' the booths are 'house shaped' and the interiors feature domestic touches including rugs, wallpaper and lightshades to create a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.
The client brief required a BREEAM 'Excellent' rating and a sustainable approach was at the forefront of the design team's response from the project's inception.