David Kier Student Hub and Auditorium
Situated at Queens University in Belfast, the David Kier Building houses a new Student Hub and refurbished lecture auditorium, offering an ‘open all hours’ collaborative learning environment. This space extends the use of facilities beyond the academic day, providing a convenient hub for student life.
Completed in 2014, the interconnected levels and seating corrals combine to shape a series of spaces that subtly and coherently move from public to private.
Burwell Deakins Architects is an RIBA Award winning design practice engaged in a range of architectural, interior design and master planning projects. Established in 1999, the company was involved with the student hub and auditorium, having delivered on the architectural and design aspects.
Nicholas Burwell, Director at Burwell Deakins Architects, told Premier Construction:
“We do quite a lot of education buildings, and we designed a new building for Loughborough University. As part of that project we looked at the structure of the way tutors taught the classes and it became obvious that there were different teaching methods at work, such as formal teaching and group work. So they wanted to combine the traditional lecture style with seminar type work and move between the two. We looked at that and designed a seating system for it which actually won the FX International Seating Award 2013, which was great.
“Gary Jebb – was Head of Estates at Queens University Belfast at this time – saw the lecture theatre and decided Queens University should have one similar!
“Our original commission was to redesign the lecture theatre (which is attached to the student hub) – but as things progressed the scope widened to include another six auditoria’s within the estate. The other six auditoria’s were much simpler refurbishments but we gave them a very clean and elegant look that incorporated new teaching walls for multi-forma teaching.
“Halfway through the project, Gary then added that they also would like a student hub adjacent to the lecture theatre for the university, and asked if I would be interested in carrying out the developments – so we developed an extension that creates a cross-discipline, collaborative environment that has proved very popular with the students!”
Booths within the hub feature individual lights for students to study in their own time. A space was created with a varied landscape of different environments within one area, but connected together. The idea was to design a hub where students engaged with the space and enjoyed being there, encouraging learning, concentration and communication. For example some spaces which create high backed environments suitable for small groups to work together and although open to the whole area, it feels as if there is a sense of privacy in those particular group spaces.
“The student hub revolves around the way in which students undertake social learning, so very often large flexible spaces are created with lots of moveable tables and chairs, so that in theory students can do as they please. The problem with that is that actually they can’t, because they are sat in a huge space with noise and distractions, with tables that don’t fit together very well because they’ve all been moved around.”
Despite not taking the title, David Kier Student Hub and Auditorium was in fact shortlisted for the RIBA Awards Northern Ireland 2016, which is still an impressive feat.
“Even to reach the shortlist means reaching the top five or six buildings in Northern Ireland in that year, so it says a lot about the quality of the project and the ongoing delivery of that space. Regardless of winning the award I feel very proud of what we have achieved.
“We win our fair share of RIBA awards and it is always good to receive the recognition that these aren’t just buildings in terms of what the client and end-users like – but also add to the quality of architectural stock in society, which is something architects strive to do where possible.”