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Competition: University of Leeds student hub

The RIBA has launched a contest for a new ‘statement building’ for the University of Leeds (Deadline: 15 July)

The competition seeks an architect and landscape architect to deliver a new 4,000m² student hub featuring innovative teaching spaces; quiet study, social and peer learning spaces; a café, maker space, functional outdoor areas, and landscaping.

The three-storey Passivhaus complex will form a new centrepiece for the prestigious university’s Western Campus located around 05km from the university’s main campus. It will replace an existing single-storey temporary teaching block which occupies a green space formerly home to a cricket pitch.

University of Leeds Western Campus

University of Leeds Western Campus

Source: Image by Google Earth

University of Leeds Western Campus

According to the brief: ‘The university is seeking a new statement building which will accommodate spaces for teaching & learning, collaborative & interdisciplinary working, educational outreach activities for diverse groups, student entrepreneurship, personal development and challenge.

‘As a new focal point for the university’s Western Campus, the building must be inclusive to attract a diverse range of students and support them beyond the confines of their subject discipline. It will operate as a forum for learning where students will be able to engage with peers, academics, employability professionals and other external experts.’

The University of Leeds is the fifth largest university in the UK with around 33,300 students. Its main 40ha campus features a variety of Gothic Revival, Art Deco and Brutalist buildings, including the Grade II*-listed Roger Stevens Building by Chamberlin, Powell & Bon.

Recent schemes delivered by the university include a £16 million library on Woodhouse Lane by ADP. The university is part way through delivering a £200 million regeneration masterplan draw up by ADP.

Upcoming projects include a new £40 million ‘Nexus’ building by Associated Architects. As part of the regeneration programme, a listed building management strategy has been created by Avanti Architects for the university’s nine listed post-war buildings.

University of Leeds Western Campus contest site

University of Leeds Western Campus contest site

Source: Image by Google Earth

University of Leeds Western Campus contest site

In April, the University of Leeds launched a £15.8 million construction consultancy services framework covering a range of projects valued above £2 million, including new builds and the refurbishment of listed structures.

Planned to complete in 2022, the new student hub provide a ‘community heart of the Western Campus – both for business and law students, and for students from across the university.’

Five finalists will be selected following the completion of a selection questionnaire and invited to draw up conceptual proposals for the new complex. A honorarium of £6,000 + VAT is available to each team.

Submissions will be judged 75 per cent on quality and 25 per cent on cost. Judges will include John Whiles of Jestico + Whiles who will be acting as RIBA Adviser; Steve Gilley director of estates at The University of Leeds; and Alistair Mullis, head of the university’s law school.

An overall winner will be announced in October.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 2pm, 15 July

Contact details

RIBA Competitions
No 1 Aire Street

Tel: 0113 203 1490

Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Len Wilson

The deputy director of development at the University of Leeds discusses his ambitions for the competition

Len Wilson

Len Wilson

Len Wilson

Why are your holding an international contest for a new student hub at the University of Leeds?

We are looking for an iconic building in a very sensitive setting with the highest sustainable credentials. This new student hub will create a new heart for the student community within our Western Campus. We are also looking to create external and internal environments as a place where diverse students from all over the campus could go for a range of the reasons indicated in the brief. We are also looking to reach out to schools and people from a diversity of backgrounds. With all this in mind a RIBA competition appeared the best vehicle to find an architectural/landscape architect team of the right calibre and creativity.

What is your vision for the new building?

It will provide an outstanding facility for both study and social learning, alongside support for skills, personal development and careers advice. With its café and social space, it will become the community heart of the Western Campus – both for business and law students, and for students from across the university. The student hub will provide facilities suitable for educational groups taking part in the university’s sector-leading outreach and widening participation activities, reflecting our commitment to raising aspirations and opening up opportunities to transform lives through education. It will also provide spaces for a range of student opportunity activities to enable students to challenge themselves and to explore new skills and ideas.

The student hub will be a welcoming and accessible building – designed to meet the needs of our students as they develop as well-rounded global citizens, able to lead and make a positive contribution in a rapidly changing world. It will reflect the energy and excitement of a place in which a diverse range of people come together to learn, to create, and to make new discoveries – not least about themselves and what they are able to achieve.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

The contest is open to all architects, including emerging architects although they may need to team up with established practices (for insurances purposes).

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

We spend approximately £60 million a year currently so projects of different sizes and types are continuously being procured; the university will be deliberating on a new capital development plan over the coming six months or so.

Are there any other recent student hub projects you have been impressed by?

We were impressed by the Oxford foundry although mainly in the way it is being managed and how students are being nurtured, how collaboration takes place and the general concept. Our student Hub will also be combining other additional elements as well into its functions. We are looking for something quite innovative and haven’t really seen anything yet that has inspired us.


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