grafton architects builds a 'warehouse of ideas' for kingston university in london

grafton architects builds a 'warehouse of ideas' for kingston university in london

grafton architects has completed its first building in the UK, a learning center for london’s kingston university conceived as a ‘warehouse of ideas’. the £50 million ($65m USD) project, which grafton was chosen to complete in 2013, has been designed to act as the school’s ‘front door’ and as a gateway to kingston upon thames. known as ‘town house’, the scheme is part of a new vision for the region that hopes to build stronger links with the town center and its local community.

grafton architects kingston university
image by ed reeve (also main image)



grafton — led by irish architects yvonne farrell and shelley mcnamara — designed the building to be as welcoming as possible, with with over 50% of the 9,400 square meter (101,180 sqf) accommodation designed to be open plan. a matrix of interlocking spaces and uses overlap and weave together physically and visually, allowing students, visitors and staff to find secluded corners for studying and collaborative work while remaining part of an interconnected whole. these spaces have been designed so that users can always see what is happening, encouraging exchange and facilitating learning as a social process.

grafton architects kingston university
image by dennis gilbert



‘imagine a place where reading, dance, performance, lectures, exhibitions, research and learning, happily co-exist, under one roof, and the door is open to everyone. this is the new town house in kingston,’ says grafton architects. ‘the juxtaposition of contemplative and active performative activities offers an imaginative approach to education as a process of engagement and discovery. the architecture reflects this openness. colonnades form welcoming meeting spaces at edges. interlocking volumes move vertically connecting the building from ground to top. activities are revealed to the passer by. there are no barriers.’

grafton architects kingston university
image by ed reeve



conceived as a cultural and educational hub for students, staff, and the local community, the new building houses the main university library and archive alongside a covered courtyard, dance studios, studio theater, and adaptable learning space as well as two cafés. constructed from reconstituted stone, the distinctive colonnade provides amenity space, while drawing students, staff, and visitors into the building. on the upper floors, three cascading landscaped terraces, which promote external movement and circulation, form ‘hanging gardens’ that connect the scheme from ground level to roof.

grafton architects kingston university
image by ed reeve



a triple-height internal courtyard is joined by a café, foyer, and flexible performance and assembly spaces on the ground floor. a grand open stair weaves its way through the building forming a connection between volumes and uses. the upper levels include large wrap-around library work spaces that have been created in close consultation with kingston university learning professionals, allowing students and staff to learn within an environment suited to individual study and collaborative working. as visitors move up the building, the stairs culminate in the smallest floor plate at the top which is occupied by a café, final study level and meeting space, complemented by an external terrace.

grafton architects builds a 'warehouse of ideas' for kingston university in london
image by ed reeve



‘a world-class building sends a strong signal to our students, staff and the higher education sector of the importance of what kingston university does and the power of architecture to help deliver our mission,’ says professor steven spier, vice-chancellor of kingston university. ‘town house will not only provide much needed structured and informal learning for students but will be a building for the whole community to use. grafton architects’ interpretation of our design brief will ensure the building’s presence helps dissolve the boundaries between the university and the borough.’ see designboom’s previous coverage of the project here.

grafton architects builds a 'warehouse of ideas' for kingston university in london
image by dennis gilbert

grafton architects builds a 'warehouse of ideas' for kingston university in london
image by ed reeve



project info:


client: kingston university
architect: grafton architects
executive architect: grafton architects
contractor: willmott dixon construction (WDC)
structural engineers: AKT II
M&E consultation: chapmanbdsp (design stage), DES electrical/CMB engineering (construction stage)
project management and cost management: turner & townsend
quantity surveyor: turner & townsend
client technical team: architon group practice and MG partnership
clerk of works (civils & services): fulkers
CDM advisory: turner & townsend
BIM advisory: turner & townsend

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