The opportunity to live in residences is central to the UEA student experience and the University has a particularly distinctive and attractive campus. The Blackdale School site was identified to meet the need for new on‑campus, en‑suite accommodation, which would support growth in student numbers and help maintain the University’s identity as a campus university.
Through holding a series of consultation meetings and workshops that included key user groups, the design team were able to build a detailed understanding of what was important to UEA in order to develop the brief and to design the scheme around the needs of UEA staff and students. High‑quality design, sustainability, and ease of use were all key requirements that would allow the new development to become an inspirational place to live and study.
LSI Architects worked closely with the University to create the best possible scheme for the available budget, drawing on design principles and lessons learned on previous projects at UEA and elsewhere. User groups including staff and students met frequently for a series of consultation workshops. A public exhibition and other activities were also undertaken as part of a wider community consultation process.
At concept stage, initial ideas were presented to the UEA in a series of meetings, with consensus regarding design principles and overarching project objectives achieved soon after. Early engagement with the City Council planning department helped to establish a shared vision regarding design principles and how the scheme could be set within the local context. Issues of scale, massing, the setting up of key views and problems associated with overlooking were a few of the important architectural design matters considered; these were developed and reviewed through 3D modelling.
Following selection as preferred bidder, R G Carter worked closely with UEA and were able to assist the detailed design process as we sought to overcome significant challenges with respect to programme and budget. Innovative solutions such as Cross Laminated Timber, modular bathroom pods, and creative use of materials were all utilised to realise the scheme within the time constraints and achieve the defined objectives such as quality of design, robustness, and value for money. Comprehensive application of soft landings principles ensured that end‑user requirements remained at the forefront of everybody’s thinking.
From the earliest stages of the project, the aim was to create buildings that would work well and be easy to operate and maintain.
The project team worked hard to incorporate within the design the accrued knowledge of the whole team and lessons learned from previous projects. This was achieved through an ongoing dialogue and practical measures such as the provision of full‑size mock ups and the use of 3D modelling to allow end users to comment on the design and layout.