A brand new atrium at Falmouth University that brings together the surrounding faculty buildings through innovative and flexible teaching spaces continues to receive industry recognition. The Fox Atrium has most recently been nominated for a RICS (South West) Award in the ‘Design Through Innovation’ category.
Work on the atrium was completed in October 2016, replacing a tired courtyard with a covered area including a new refectory, shop and flexible teaching rooms. It was designed by APG Architecture with EBC acting as main contractor.
APG Architecture has a longstanding relationship with Falmouth University and the Fox Atrium was part of their wider work for the university. Adam Parsons, Associate at the firm and lead architect on the project, spoke to Premier Construction about the development:
“We’ve been working with Falmouth University on their campus masterplan for about five years. The first project we were appointed to do was identify a number of opportunities across the site. Following on from that, we created a new graphic design faculty building involving approximately 2,000 square metres of refurbishment and new build. Our brief within this work was to develop a typology that could be continued through the campus and bring it up to the aspirations of the university.
“We completed this section in 2014. Off the back of that project we were invited to continue the study and look at the space in between four existing buildings which at the time was an underused courtyard.
“We worked closely with the university to come up with a brief as well as the county council and local residents. The campus is doglegged with half set in a conservation area and half set in a residential area so it is quite a sensitive site. Once we had a scheme together, we put it up for planning with permission granted in seven weeks.
“The collaboration between the various parties was important so what we put forward was acceptable. The university is a very important part of the community in Cornwall and has a responsibility to engage with local people.”
To minimise disruption to both students and local residents, work was carefully planned to make sure construction could start immediately in May 2016. Enabling works were carried out during student holidays and elements such as the structure’s steel frame were fabricated off site to speed up the build time.
At the heart of the atrium is its flexibility and this was the driver behind the project. The University’s main faculties surround the atrium which can now act as a connection between them. The teaching spaces can be opened to be part of the atrium or closed off. They feature oak timber cladding for a natural, soft and tactile feel. The curved, lightweight ETFE roof also stands out, helping flood the atrium with natural light.
Despite a short opening time, the atrium is already proving to be a popular space for students to socialise and study. Refreshing a previously tired area of the campus, the atrium has received significant industry recognition for its inventive design. Adam added:
“The space has been transformed and given the heart of the campus an identity. It is a place that brings all the students together. I think because it was such an uninspiring space before, the perception of what can be done with existing buildings has been opened up. It has been really well received by students and staff.
“The RICS nomination is great recognition and is nice for ourselves as well as the university. It is worthy recognition of what can be achieved in a short space of time without sacrificing on quality.”