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NTU Sustainability in Enterprise

Student Exhibition Showcases Innovative Architectural Visions of Nottingham

12 July 21 words: Lilith Hudson

A free exhibition showcasing students’ work from the University of Nottingham’s Department of Architecture and Built Environment comes to St Mary’s Church this week. The exhibition, Project: Nottingham, responds to a variety of briefs for sites within the city, with design drivers including ‘carbon neutral’ Nottingham and the city’s COVID recovery.

A carbon-neutral brewing business, charitable almshouses and a revitalised community centre in the heart of Lenton are among the designs by University of Nottingham students to reimagine and reinvigorate Nottingham City Centre.

A selection of the Nottingham-focused architectural projects from the Department of Architecture and Built Environment will be on display to the public in a free exhibition at St Mary’s Church in the Lace Market from Friday 9 to Tuesday 13 July 2021.

The student projects focused on diverse themes and approaches ranging from building design, planning and urban design, retrofitting and repurposing buildings, building comfort and energy-efficiency, to cutting building carbon emissions and renewable energy systems integration in design.  

Locations included new housing on the old fruit market in Sneinton, retrofitting the old Boots BioCity site for new offices and redeveloping the former People’s College site.

A condensed version is available to view online via the DABE Exhibit!21, the end-of-year show for the Department of Architecture and Built Environment.

Case Study One: The Lenton Community Centre

Jenny Kendall, 21, from Stourbridge in Worcestershire is a third-year BArch student at the University of Nottingham. Her project, entitled TLC (The Lenton Centre/The Lenton Community) is a development encompassing a new, sustainable social housing scheme - on what is currently a brownfield site - and the retrofit of an existing, well-loved community facility next door.

Originally a public washhouse, the Centre was built to provide a place to bathe and clean clothes for Lenton residents. A swimming pool was added in the 1960s and it was later turned into a community centre taken on by the council before being community-run from 2005. Fast forward 16 years and the community still has the same drive and determination to use the space but the layout is not 100% suited to users’ needs.

Lenton resident Jenny said, “The Lenton Centre is a lovely building with a long history that does amazing outreach from exercise to English language classes. It’s an important community hub but it’s somewhat hidden from view which means lots of people may not know it is there.

“It was interesting to work within the footprint of the existing building. My version of sustainability includes retaining as much of the original building as possible but to reconfigure its architecture and spaces to enhance its visual appeal, functionality and accessibility.”

Jenny’s masterplan focuses on creating spaces for wellbeing and social interaction for the community. It does this through the design of a new public square for The Lenton Centre’s visitors, and through shared gardens with biodiverse planting for the new housing development and a public cafe.

My version of sustainability includes retaining as much of the original building as possible but to reconfigure its architecture and spaces to enhance its visual appeal, functionality and accessibility

Inside The Lenton Centre, Jenny focused her attention on the hall, the swimming pool and opening up the complex layout of windowless corridors which are confusing for new visitors to navigate around. She also restored many of the special architectural features of the original 1930s building that had been bricked up or lost.

The Centre is frequently used by the West Area Project, which supports people with learning disabilities. Due to the age of the existing Centre, there is a lack of accessible entry points or facilities poolside. Jenny’s concept uses adaptive features to make the Centre more wheelchair-friendly. She also added a sensory room and a disabled toilet.

The Lenton Centre manager, Sue Rider said, “With her talent and vision, Jenny has respectfully-redesigned the Centre, which is a much-loved and valuable resource for our community. It’s a fantastic concept that would breathe new life into the building and put us on the map to potential new users.”

Case Study Two: Carbon Neutral Brewery Firm

Daniel Johnson, 23 from Nottingham, is a student on the postgraduate MArch Architecture and Sustainable Design course. His project is entitled: Carbon-Neutral Brewery.

The site is located within the proposed Island Quarter – currently 40-acres of wasteland just 500 metres from Nottingham train station. Daniel’s concept, which fits into a recently approved masterplan for the site, comprises a 2.8 hectare plot in the south-east corner containing two derelict warehouses - originally part of the Boots the chemist empire. 

The vision for the regenerated site is to introduce sustainable industry back into a vibrant mixed-use development, helping to create jobs and preserve the city’s heritage.

The brief specifically required a combination of warehousing, manufacturing, laboratory, office and retail space as a new, flagship headquarters of a local brewing supplies business. 

Redevelopment of the decaying warehouse buildings would both help preserve some of Nottingham’s key industrial heritage and provide a better impression of the city

As a Nottingham resident himself, Daniel acknowledges that despite being situated at an important intersection between the city centre and surrounding residential areas, the brownfield site is currently an eyesore, and one of the first things seen by anyone arriving by train.

He said, “Redevelopment of the decaying warehouse buildings would both help preserve some of Nottingham’s key industrial heritage and provide a better impression of the city.”

The existing buildings are perfectly orientated to the sun for passive solar gain throughout the warmer months, allowing the new proposed uses to be consciously arranged in a way to aid passive design. 

An atrium was introduced to the centre of the plan of the listed warehouse, allowing access to the labs and offices whilst creating the space for a grand entrance hall that also contains the staff canteen. The atrium in the listed building also allows for stack ventilation to take place, helping the building stay cool in the summer.

Other natural daylighting solutions are found in the sawtooth roof design of the proposed new warehouse and the introduction of roof lights for the first-floor refurbished rooms.

The site has flooded in the past, and so landscaped gardens, rainwater harvesting and sustainable urban drainage solutions are all proposed to mitigate surface water run-off. The gardens also contain reed beds which naturally purify wastewater.

Case Study Three: Almshouses In The Lacemarket

Lottie Smith, from Stamford, Lincolnshire, is a 6th year MArch student. She worked at Lathams Architects in the Lace Market, Nottingham for three years during her studies and has just returned full time. Her project is entitled: Houseplace.

The reimagined site is a void on Short Hill, Nottingham; an unintentional window into the Lace Market from the south approach to the city, caused by the Luftwaffe bombing raids of 1941. The original Georgian townhouses and 19th-century lace factories were damaged beyond repair and never rebuilt. Cleared and converted into a car park, the site is now being developed with a new infill building of residential accommodation.

Lottie explains, “I saw the void as a benefit not a problem; it was functionless and free to become anything I wanted to design. Its lack of purpose encouraged me to investigate what once filled the space, so I researched as far back as possible. I found out almshouses for five poor widows were originally built there as early as 1500.”

The finding inspired Lottie’s modern take on the concept of charity-funded homes for the vulnerable and elderly. It would be alms housing in the heart of the city centre for residents who are still independent enough to make the most of everything on their doorstep.

I saw the void as a benefit not a problem; it was functionless and free to become anything I wanted to design

Lottie’s thesis conclusions found that space which is undefined generates life and opportunity for spontaneous social interaction, as people are comfortable to behave in an unconditioned way within the architecture.

Part of the scheme is to allow a new public route through the site, to allow a direct link from Stoney Street to the ancient Malin Hill. The idea was to encourage movement through part of the site, to increase atmosphere and enjoyable ‘people watching’ for the alms residents.

The materials used in the construction of the almshouses are very subtle. Red brick was a natural choice due to the surrounding context, but also for its flexibility. Built buildings can be dismantled and altered, or their bricks can be reused in new buildings. The warmed colours encourage the building to feel inviting, far from grey, cold steel and concrete construction that many people might expect for city centre living.

Case Study Four: New Residential Complex On Old Nottingham College Site

Farheen Qutub, 29, from Chennai in India, is a student on the MArch Architecture and Sustainable Design course. Her project is entitled S.E.L.F (Self-Sustainable; Ecological Integrity; Lifelong caring; Friendly community) Haven and relates to the redevelopment of the Nottingham College campus on Maid Marian Way, previously known as People’s College, which will be vacated later this year when students and staff move to a new location.

The site is located at the southern end of Maid Marian Way on the western edge of Nottingham city centre.

Farheen specifically focused on residential block-G which is a mixed-use housing scheme comprising 56 residential units.

The intent is to protect and strengthen the historic heritage and urban public space and design a complex that is adaptive to the surrounding natural environment. The end goal is to design a safe neighbourhood which facilitates healthy behaviour and contains desirable and energy-efficient homes. 

Farheen said, “From an urban design point of view, the master plan is designed to elevate the surrounding public realm. The residential units are visually connected within the site and with the neighbouring streets to factor in a sense of community and belonging, coupled with comfort.”

Farheen who is a recipient of the Developing Solutions Masters Scholarship sponsored by the University, designed the buildings to follow the area’s natural contours - gradually stepping down from the north to south of the site.

The residential units are visually connected within the site and with the neighbouring streets to factor in a sense of community and belonging, coupled with comfort

The development is intended to accommodate units of different sizes and types from terraces to apartments, which hopes to attract more varied residents – from young professionals, to families and the elderly. The residential units are connected via bridges instead of stairs, which makes them more user friendly for people of all ages.

Each home has a balcony and every unit is designed to afford residents magnificent views of the Castle. A new public plaza adjacent to the Olde Trip to Jerusalem, acts as a gateway to the Castle and a central space for residents to relax and mix. Further green spaces have been added around the complex to enhance wellbeing, while the car park has been moved underground out of site.

A self-sustainable, community approach is proposed, such as the edible garden and community retail units on site. Meanwhile an inward-facing courtyard around the residences, which houses the children’s play area, provides ‘natural’ surveillance.

You can check out Project: Nottingham at S Mary's Church until Tuesday 13 July

DABE Exhibit!21

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