The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs and research in biological sciences, veterinary science and veterinary nursing. Following completion of the Sports and Wellbeing Centre at the rural campus at Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms in Hertfordshire, UK, a further assessment of the existing Campus Masterplan was commissioned with the goal to realign the development boundary to allow future expansion of the Campus and growth of the institute’s facilities.
This Masterplan was informed by a clear phasing strategy and extensive surveys of current building stock to establish long term viability of existing infrastructure. The resultant strategy established available site within a clear zoning diagram across the campus with three fingers each accommodating residential, social, teaching and learning, and research and development. Each zone is broken by green landscape belts which extend beyond the site boundary into greenbelt farmland. In addition, each zone and breathing space are linked by pedestrian and vehicular roads running perpendicularly.
The proposal was located as per the Masterplan phased diagram but offered a physical covered and contained link of student focused social, teaching and research space between the residential and clinical zones. The developed scheme addresses key issues raised within the Masterplan over campus focus, clear wayfinding, high quality social space combined with new ways of learning, researching and working. The new building forms a public gateway to the more sensitive clinical areas which is both controlled yet welcoming. Set between two modern yet different existing buildings, the proposal attempts to create a singular aesthetic which unifies and establishes a hierarchy of threshold and scale. The building is designed around a central concourse which forms part of the existing route through campus. This offers continuity and orientation to campus users while creating a large gathering space for students, teaching staff and visitors. The new teaching spaces span three floors and wrap around this street, connecting the existing laboratory space with TaRC (Teaching and Research Centre) to the existing office space and student social spaces, lecture theatres, library, staff offices and teaching labs.
Flexibility is the key driver to allow the RVC to meet evolving curriculum and developing technologies in both research and teaching. In addition to containment level 2 (CL2) research laboratories, the design includes teaching labs. Group learning rooms, and shared lecture theatre offer greater opportunities for group-led education. The primary 450-seat lecture theatre can be subdivided to offer whole cohort teaching or smaller groups as required. Informal breakout space is provided throughout to continue teaching outwith traditional classrooms, the largest of these – the concourse offers breakout from labs, student social space and lecture theatre on a large scale.
Externally, the building is wrapped in a precast colonnade which establishes a repetition and rhythm horizontally and vertically whist varying its depth to create contrast of light and shade and provide solar shading and privacy. This precast material opens and frames entrance to both ends of the street clarifying entrance and wayfinding as well as unifying disparate architectural styles.
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