Kingston upon Thames, United Kingdom – The team at Dublin-based Grafton Architects took on the challenges of university design in their most recent project, a multi-purpose cultural and community hub for Greater London’s Kingston University called Town House.
University buildings are challenging architectural projects, as their design briefs often full of oxymorons. Designers must strive to capture the spirit of age-old institutions, some whose heritage spans hundreds of years while simultaneously catering to an ever-changing student body. Architects must draw a relationship between the building and local community while still preserving the autonomy of the university as an independent entity. And institutions must be open-minded and highly flexible to adopt to a range of user needs, yet not so flexible that its spaces lack clear functionality.
Stressing its namesake, over 50 per cent of Town House’s 9,400-sq-m building is open plan, designed to encourage convivial, flat-hierarchy spaces reminiscent of a town square. The community hub houses the main university library and archive alongside dance studios, theatres, an adaptable learning space and two cafés, offering several forms of cultural programming that cater to a range of interests. Designed to function as the university’s front door as well as a gateway to London’s Kingston upon Thames, Town House proposes the institution as a bridge between two worlds.