One of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the UK, Queen’s University in Belfast is a stalwart of British academia with over 150 years of scholarly excellence resting within its walls, renowned for its storied past and stunning buildings.
The project, which was undertaken by TODD Architects, consisted of redeveloping the iconic campus, which included partial demolition, restructuring, refacing and extension. The refurbishment and linkage of an incongruous 1960s multi-storey library stack and teaching centre (the Peter Frogatt Centre) was also transformed into a new home for the University’s highly respected School of Law, a Faculty hub facility, and a series of centrally bookable lecture theatres and teaching spaces.
The integration of new and old presented particular challenges to effectively coordinate structure, services and fabric. The uppermost storeys of the tower were demolished, the building stripped back to its frame, with openings formed to create mini atria and a steel frame clipped onto each elevation to increase the developable footprint.
The complex is entered through the linkage between the two buildings, identified as a triple height space with bridge links and used as a café / exhibition area. Classrooms and lecture theatres are located at lower levels, with PhD student and academic offices above arranged around the atria, that introduce natural light and act as informal meeting and study areas.
Brick was a critical element in the façade design, in tying the scheme into its surroundings and the University’s historic Quad in particular, where brickwork predominates.
Finding the right material proved difficult for the architects, as it was discovered that five different types of bricks had been used in and around the quad area, so the chosen product had to fit a number of requirements. Wienerberger’s Lincoln Red brick was an ideal choice to aid the architects in synergising the new structure with the University’s historic surroundings, in particular the Quad, where brick is the predominant building material.
The selection process involved the building of a number of sample panels (in differing brick types, imperial/metric sizes and jointing techniques) for consideration by the planners and their conservation architect advisors.
The building’s façades were refaced in a restricted palette – red clay brickwork, glazed screens and bronze anodised panels. The patterning on each elevation responds to the historic context and particular orientation with broad brick reveals and extended curtain wall capping pieces provide a layering to the facades, echoing the Victorian detailing of neighbouring buildings.
The brick was generally laid traditionally, but brick slips secured to a proprietary backing board were also used to form soffits and glazed into the curtain walling on the Peter Frogatt Centre façade. The brick aesthetic was carried through to the interior of the student hub, where vertical panels provide a colour and textural contrast to the white plastered walls.
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