20 Nov Imperial College
Kohn Pedersen Fox –
Housed in several buildings in the South Kensington district of western London, Imperial College has undertaken a facilities study in order to better meet student body needs and to create attractive residency options for students. Most of the accommodations currently in use at the college are provided by two listed 1960s buildings, which are grossly out of scale with their South Kensington Garden Square setting. The substandard quality of the rooms in these buildings has discouraged potential students and presents a serious drain on the college’s resources.
Imperial College invited KPF to participate in a competition to look at how the college’s residential needs could be addressed by restructuring, new construction, or a combination of both. KPF’s master plan aims to restore the original scale of the facilities so that they will be more cohesive with the historic area of London in which they are situated.
As part of its information gathering and public outreach efforts, KPF held formal monthly liaison meetings with residents groups and conducted regular site visits, which encouraged key groups from the College and the student body to build consensus for the project. In addition, some students, represented by the College’s Student Union group, have been personally involved in the design of the project.
KPF’s designs demonstrate that more rooms of a higher standard can be provided by a building with more appropriate architecture and massing. Sensitivity in the design can both heal the important public space and improve the experiences provided by the spaces nearby.
The main landscaped Victorian square was restored as part of the project. As it is one of the main student pedestrian pathways from the Halls of Residence to the College’s academic buildings, careful phasing of the garden construction was required in order to keep the square accessible throughout the project. The townscape benefits of the garden restoration helped KPF obtain the support of English Heritage’s London Advisory Committee and the City of Westminster for the master plan. The master plan is now considered one of the most important restoration projects of an historic London Square since World War II.