The Open University’s brief was particularly complex because their new building was to house three faculties (Computing and Mathematics faculties and Institute of Educational Technology) whose combined research focuses on artificial intelligence and the impact of technology. The departments wanted to create a new paradigm in research facilities that could combine individual and team activity as well as live testing of technology, so called ‘black rooms’.
This was a fast-track competition because of funding constraints. We devised a two-stage design competition with invited teams so that the university could optimise the time available for design. From a field of six pre-qualified teams, Swanke Hayden Connell Architects emerged as the clear winner with a design for a landmark building with a strong campus identity.
The building has been widely praised in the further education field as an exemplar for academic working and has won a number of architectural prizes. This project set new standards in areas such as efficient space use, adaptable research environments, cost-effective operational management, energy and emission savings and creating a contemporary architectural presence.
The OU are using this facility to continue their ground-breaking research of ambient technology, using the building itself as a vehicle to promote new technology and secure funding for that research.