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Sustainability...but not as you know it - Greenwich University

After completing construction on their £76 academic premises, Greenwich University focuses on a new building project - relations with the community

By Kristian Brunt-Seymour

The new Stockwell Street campus of the University of Greenwich is a pioneering academic premises situated close to the historic sanctuaries of Greenwich – Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor’s grand composition for the Old Royal Naval College, the National Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark.

Stockwell Street Construction / Heneghan Peng from Jim Stephenson on Vimeo.

Constructed by Heneghan Peng, the £76 building consists of a robust, industrial concrete frame containing expansive, well-lit studios, a library and seminar rooms, and a stone front, which continues the curve of a pleasant historic street while adjusting its scale both to reflect the importance of the university and to address the grand neighbouring church, partly by Hawksmoor, of St Alfege Church.

University of Greenwich: The Stockwell Street building designed by heneghan peng architects from Stephenson / Bishop on Vimeo.

Community is at the centre of the building, which has been one thing both students and staff have had to adjust to. Community is also reflected in the transparency of the building, conveyed through a lack of doors throught the building, and replaced with wide open spaces that visitors and students alike can walk through.

The building also serves another ambitions purpose of connecting the University with the public, containing a gallery, cafe and other spaces, placed behind glass shop fronts, which anyone can enter.

In addition to its stone front stone front and concrete frame are a series of fourteen roof gardens each one designed for a different landscape typology, including sauvignon blanc and chardonnay vineyards, beehives, ponds and facilities for growing algae. As a result, a lot of the educational research conducted on the building aims to focus on food production, management of water and biodiversity. Two roofs have also been left without any plants and consist of specially treated soil to look at seed migration.

"We've spent three months acclimatising to the building. Now that we're established it's about branching out into the community and making it another focal point for the community with events", explains Nic Clear, Head of Department of Architecture and Landscape at Greenwich University, "The move to Greenwich has be absolutely vital for several reasons, one of which has been being in a community of architects. Sixty per cent of all architecture practices are in London, and the building is part of that strategy giving a physical proximity to where the practices are which is crucial to it's future.

"We're looking at East Greenwich, Greenwich Peninsula and Thamesmead and the range of issues in development that are going on in the area and tying our educational projects across the department from first year to postgraduate into these three development sites.

"As well as being new neighbours, we want to be good neighbours and the importance of working with people in the local area and being seen as good neighbours is incredibly important because we're architects and landscape architects and that's what we're really concerned about - that whole agenda of how architecture and landscape architecture responds to the landscape their in.

"The opportunity of building up the school in a new environment seemed like a exciting opportunity especially given Greenwich University's reputation of bringing together a range of students - by assembling of all the different formulas such as the public, outdoor and educational spaces in the context of this brand new building, the project is pioneering.

"This construction project is not just about sustainability to be captured in a building or a technical level, but on the way the university builds communities and engages with the public. Hopefully, we will achieve this and reach a dialogue that can be productive and mutually beneficial."

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