Premier Construction South West

UWE Bristol

UWE Bristol
Written by Roma Publications

Student venue offers commercial standard hospitality

UWE Bristol

A stylish brand new £9.8m state-of-the-art venue for the University of West England’s Students Union has been completed on the university’s new Frenchay Campus in Bristol.

The facility has been designed on commercial lines in order to compete with high street bars and cafes.

The development, which opened in September 2015, comprises two interlinked buildings, and has been designed to improve student experience and satisfaction, and to provide purpose built, sustainable, energy efficient accommodation.

The building has been designed by Stride Treglown Architects to an initial concept by Hawkins Brown and constructed by BAM Construction UK Ltd, with the interior design being carried out by Matthews Mee. Mechanical and electrical systems were designed and installed by F P Hurley and civil and structural engineers were JDL Consultants. Project manages were Sweett UK and Turner and Townsend were cost consultants.

With a gross internal floor area of circa 3,000m2, the new facility is located within a development plot fronting the new Central Plaza (Heartzone) to the east. Its location demonstrates a close connection with the Plaza and it is now a wayfinding landmark at the heart of the Frenchay Campus.

The building brings all students union services together in one accessible location, so that students will easily be able to find the services they need.

The new sustainable, energy efficient facility provides brand new vibrant spaces. The larger of the two buildings houses a number of offices, meeting rooms, a radio hub and a commercial unit, plus open plan spaces for students to work collaboratively, or socialise, as well as bookable studio space.

The smaller of the two buildings provides a double height social space, with a large bar area, balcony café and leisure area. A vertical timber feature dominates the space, with a distinct visual quality that reflects the unique and original style that can be found within the social scene of Bristol.

In addition there are outdoor landscaped spaces and a courtyard which can be used as additional space with marquees for major annual events such as Freshers’ Week.

Internally, the double height expansive space has been broken down into zones with the use of lighting, ceiling rafts, booths and screens.

Character has been added through digital wall paper and reclaimed gymnasium flooring to create quirky and familiar interiors.

Rob Matthews, design director of Matthews Mee said: “The building features full height glazing, so there is a lot of natural light internally. In the ground floor lounge and coffee area we have used a lot of natural materials including timber, slate and stone, punctuated with bright colours. All of the dining seating and soft upholstered seating is bespoke.

The same colour palette has been used on the lower ground floor which is a relatively large space and includes a feature bar servery with tiled counter.
“We were selected to carry out the interior design for this building due to the fact that we undertake a lot of commercial high street projects in the private sector, including restaurants and bars, and were brought on board because of that experience. This commercial experience was preferred to that of simply designing student union facilities, due to the fact that universities today are very much commercial concerns and need a design which is appropriate to compete with the high street.
“The fit out project went well and took approximately nine months.”

Jack Polson, Students’ Union President, said: “We were extremely excited to open our amazing new building. The increased social space creates more opportunities for students to meet, engage in amazing opportunities and feel part of their student community. There has never been a better time to be at UWE.”

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Steve West, said: “It was a wonderful start to the new university term that we’re able to offer these fantastic new facilities to our students. This centre is about putting students at the heart of our thinking and provides a vibrant and attractive environment for them to engage fully with the Student’s Union and what it has to offer.
“It’s our vision to build a University for the 21st Century, providing the best possible facilities for our students and the completion of this building is an important milestone in the campus redevelopment.”

UWE Bristol


Based at Willenhall in the West Midlands, mrf design and manufacture contemporary furniture for the contract market, working with architects, interior designers, specifiers, trade suppliers and end users. Established in 2001, the company handles work from small-batch production and project-based requirements through to full roll-out programmes.

mrfdesign boasts an extensive range of standard product – chairs, sofas, high stools, cubes and tables – as well as offering bespoke furniture design solutions. Their contemporary designs have a wide appeal across many sectors, including Hotels, Leisure & Hospitality, Offices, Education, Healthcare and Retail.

Premier Hospitality caught up with the Director of mrfdesign, Steve Maher, to discuss the company’s involvement with the project at UWE Bristol.
Steve commented:
“Working closely with interior designers, Matthews Mee and the UWE Estates and Student Union management team, we developed a bench seat version of the s410 wingback sofa design with veneered outside back panels.
“Striking fabrics were specified on the main back panel of the s410 wingback seating to add a strong visual impact to the furniture, including Harlequin Makena and Kirby Piccadilly Havana. Phase Two included the installation of bespoke circular booth seating, designed to create communal seating areas.
“The high back circular booths on castors, with a 2400mm diameter, have oak veneered outside backs and leather internal upholstery with eye-catching horizontal back rolls. The larger low back circular booth, 2700mm in overall diameter, is a more informal seating unit with colourful, geometric fabrics on the back, Piccadilly Ruby by Kirby, to accentuate the open ring shape to this island unit within the main bar.
“The project gave us an opportunity to demonstrate our flexible manufacturing capability to design & supply bespoke feature seating within the new Students’ Union Bar at UWE, Bristol.”

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