The Architecture School for the University of Greenwich in London is one of the six UK buildings shortlisted last year for the 2015 Riba Stirling Prize. Another educational building has been awarded – Burntwood School – but here is how the jury panel described Stockwell Street building:
“Full of light and generous spaces and benefits from clear vertical circulation – the acoustics are remarkable. The architects have created cool educational spaces which can evolve over time. This is a building that will inspire future generations of architects.” [RIBA]
The limestone facade building is designed by the Irish firm Heneghan Peng Architects, who’s known for the realisation of the Giant’s Causeway Visitors’ Centre, a beautiful building that becomes part of the landscape.
The university building is located within the Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site so it was demanded to complement the surrounding historical architecture, specially because of its scale and volume, and I think it does quite well. The University shows sensitivity towards the nearby buildings thanks to the materials choices which characterize it with a modern and recognizable configuration without being too obtrusive.
The elements that strike at first sight are its mass and materiality but these features are immediately softened by recesses and breaks within the continuity of the limestone facade which shows interesting traits thanks to the lights and shadows effect created by the large windows placed slightly backwards.
The interior looks completely dissimilar from the outside, in fact it is characterized by an industrial look and bare spaces with the raw concrete structure left visible. On each floor the studio spaces are large and the presence of a high ceiling gives the impression of being in a tall building. The whole interior space revolves around the black steel staircase that gives a strong sense of direction and movement towards the upper levels.
So what do you think? Would you like your University to be like this? Or better, do you think contemporary architecture can encourage creativity and interest towards education?