The Graduate School at Queens University, Belfast
The Grade B listed building on the main site at Queen’s University in Belfast has undergone refurbishment to create a Graduate School containing a number of centrally bookable teaching and study rooms, training rooms, social spaces and accommodation for administrative support.
Internal works have included the opening up of the ground floor space to maximise daylight and the creation of cellular spaces, using glazed partitions. By contrast, the impressive open-plan first floor space required subdivision and the creation of distinct spaces for further study, teaching and social areas. Externally, the brick and stone elevations were repaired, the gables were stabilised and the roof re-slated.
Originally the building was open from the ground floor to the underside of the roof; however the insertion of a new first floor level in the 1950s impacted on the character and space of the ground floor. Dominated by modern suspended ceilings, plastered walls and columns, few historic features remained in contrast to the open vaulted ceilings on the first floor. An open plan use was considered most appropriate for the ground floor space, with the perimeter rooms opened up as much as possible to allow maximum daylight into a relatively deep plan. However, as the design developed the need for cellular office and study space became more apparent so glazed screen walls were utilized as much as possible to increase daylight provision to central rooms via ‘borrowed’ light.
The character of the first floor space is dominated by its open, soaring nature and it was important that this was retained. To meet the brief requirements, sub-division of this space was necessary to provide a functional study space and the architects detailed 11m high frameless glass screens which ensured the visual east-west connection of the first floor was not interrupted.
A section of the first floor was also removed to recreate the character of the original full-height space, providing a visual link between the entrance and the impressive first floor space. The first floor is accessed via a sculptural staircase which draws the eye of the visitor to the first floor and also provides a key view of the west window on arrival at this level.
Under floor heating was specified to the first floor within a new slim screed incorporating high density insulation below. Services integration, in particular within the first floor space, was key to ensure minimum disruption to the historic fabric. Where possible, services were contained within the raised floor and new installations such as stud walls and even fixed furniture. Existing features, such as deep cornices and timber mouldings, were utilised to reduce the impact of cables and discreet fittings.
During the refurbishment of the Lynn Building, the historic fabric was upgraded where possible. This included installing insulation to the roof, dry lining and insulating the external ground floor walls, new Slimlite double-glazed windows and slim profile secondary glazing to existing windows.
A full package of repairs to the external fabric was carried out to include repair and replacement of heavily decayed stone and brickwork, redressing and re-pointing. Stone replacement was to match existing and new or salvaged bricks were used to achieve the best match. Re-pointing was carried out using lime mortar to match the existing pointing on the building in terms of colour and composition.
The Main Contractor on the project was Woodvale Construction and the Architects were Consarc Conservation. Work on the project began in March 2014 and was completed in March 2015.
Such is the success of the project that it was recently awarded a Regional Award and a RIBA Regional Conservation Award in the Northern Ireland RIBA Awards.