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David Kier Student Hub, Belfast

The David Keir Student Hub and auditorium for Queen’s University Belfast is an active set of collaborative spaces, supporting different modes of learning.

The University asked for a project with a clear identity that would act as a catalyst for the adoption of new pedagogies whilst encouraging greater use of the David Kier Building’s courtyard. The new interventions include the creation of a new distinctive pavilion at the heart of the university and the refurbishment of an adjacent lecture theatre.

Located in the main courtyard, the Corten steel clad pavilion echoes the colour of the existing brickwork and the city’s tradition of shipbuilding, whilst meeting the university’s request for a dynamic building form to be achieved using ‘everyday’ building technology. The glazed facades incorporate glass louvres and rooflights, whilst the walls are heavily insulated. This creates a low carbon, naturally ventilated environment with local controllability designed to meet BREEAM Very Good standards.

The new teaching spaces have been designed to reflect the evolving learning landscape, with large cohort spaces to allow lecturers to move between didactic and collaborative learning modes. the auditorium seating was developed to allow small student clusters to work as groups using ‘Connect’, a tiered table and bench system developed by Burwell Architects. Each cluster has full IT integration and individual lighting controls that reinforce the group work ethos. Augmented by a fully integrated teaching wall that allows seamless multi-media presentations, this informal arrangement elegantly inhabits the existing shell whilst complementing the historic fabric of the existing auditorium. The new teaching and learning spaces are linked to the building’s existing circulation route, drawing on a steady flow of movement to facilitate the exchange of knowledge. Internal windows enhance visual connections and encourage students to make use of teaching spaces for collaborative study when they are not in use.

This is a small project, costing only £1.4m, that addresses, and fundamentally changes, the ways in which lectures will be delivered, knowledge imparted, and collaborative skills developed. The project was shortlisted for the RIBA Northern Ireland Award, and was a finalist for the WAN Education Awards.

Project Team

Client: Queens University Belfast
Lead Architect: Burwell Architects
Project Manager: Faithful + Gould
Structural Engineer: Doran Consulting
Services Engineer: Troup Bywaters & Anders
Main Contractor: Graham Construction

Project Data

Gross Internal Area: 150 sqm
Construction: 2013-14
Form of Contract: JCT with Quantities