Henley Halebrown has completed a group of three residential halls for the University of Roehampton in southwest London. They are located next to the site where “The Watchers”, a three-part Grade II listed bronze sculpture by Lynn Chadwick (1914-2003) was reinstated last year (one of the three pieces was stolen in 2006).
The design of three residential halls by Henley Halebrown is a poetic response to the existing architectural setting of the Roehampton campus. This includes fine Georgian buildings as well as much feted post-war municipal housing by London LCC Architects Department. In both plan and elevation these two historic precedents inform Henley Halebrown’s approach. The architects were particularly inspired by the way in which the existing buildings - both old and more recent - are designed within an informal English garden-like context. Henley Halebrown are also the masterplanners for the university. Their work at Chadwick Hall is a good example of how the practice envisions the future development of the academic campus as referring back formally to its collegiate roots.
West Court, North Court and South Court Residences
The three new buildings are located around Grade II* Downshire House (1770): West Court, North Court and South Court Residences. In plan, Henley Halebrown play on the idea of the classical villa in both the South and North Court residences. This creates a distinct feel to the new buildings very much against the grain of the recent phenomenon of ubiquitous academic buildings divorced from a sense of place. The West Court residence is modernist in plan; yet all three residences have a formality in the way their elevations address Downshire House. This is mediated through a long sunken garden between the West Court and North Court residence. Existing housing by the former LCC Architects Department comprises Alton East in Scandinavian style and Alton West in an international Brutalist idiom. Both respond to the Georgian proportions of their neighbours and treat the historic buildings as pavilions in the park.
Henley Halebrown adopted a comparable approach with the new residences forming a part of their landscape and topography. The practice’s buildings never exceed four storeys, making the most of daylight along with their natural and heritage setting. The new student residences also pay homage to both the Georgian and post-war architecture through their materials: brick and dark pre-cast concrete banding. This elevational treatment together with generous fenestration enforces a sense of permanence and weight (shared by their predecessors). This is achieved nevertheless with a lightness of touch ideal for the residences’ semi-urban environs. The fine balance between gravitas and levity is reflected in the scale and massing of the new buildings.
The University of Roehampton is one of four UK universities retaining a College tradition. Its four colleges were formedm in the 19th century. Henley Halebrown set out to convey a collegiate atmosphere in the design of their residential halls by creating buildings with courts and by offering a variety of accommodation around them with a real sense of student community.
This ideal is reflected in the distinct external appearance of the residences but also in the different types of student flats within the buildings. The accommodation differs in terms of the number of students a flat may house along with its aspects, size and configuration. In each residence the architects have placed social areas, such as sitting rooms, related to the overall building typology and surrounding vistas. Nearly all bedrooms have French doors and/ or balconies allowing students to enjoy the generous parkland location. Henley Halebrown has designed the three residences’ main staircases as architectural devices identifying the individual buildings while enhancing a sense of engagement and ownership. Overall, there has been a strong desire by the architects to move away from student halls predominated by what can feel like endless circulation spaces rather than compact and social courtyards found here.