Saturday, 24 November 2012

Postwar University Campus Expansion: Part 2 - Campus as Urban Laboratory

(please click here for part 1 of this blog)

The 1960s campus development by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon (CPB) was the fourth of four main architectural moments for the University of Leeds. These periods had different architects (both in-house and hired ones) attached to them, were situated in different periods and had styles that were distinct from each other, both in design and often in the material used. The university inherited the Yorkshire College redbrick buildings from prior to its 1904 university charter, although still continued to use the terracotta bricks on occasion, as can be seen in the Beaux-Arts style Brotherton Library, completed in 1936. The campus site was redeveloped in the 1920s with Art Deco influenced buildings, often containing neo-classical elements like the Parkinson Building, and mostly made in Portland Stone, although not exclusively. While some of the previously planned buildings were not actually finished until after the war, it is clear from their style they emanate from the 1920s and 1930s, rather than their period of completion, sometimes the 1950s, as is the case with the Parkinson Building. The Parkinson Building is the iconic building associated with the University of Leeds (see image below). It appears as if it is the entrance to the university itself but was actually designed to be the entrance to the Brotherton Library and it is thought that the modern look of it would hide the, then considered, old-fashioned redbrick library behind it.

The 1960s and 1970s development, overseen by the in-house architect Geoffrey Wilson in conjunction with CPB, introduces what is considered by many to be Brutalist architecture, a term coined by the the education building architects Alison and Peter Smithson, although its ideas are oriented in Le Corbusier. At the University of Leeds the Brutalist architecture is manifest in the typical materials of concrete, glass and steel, epitomised by the Roger Stevens Lecture Theatre which now has Grade II listed status (see first image). On the campus itself, these differing architectural periods are buffered up to each other, creating both an interesting and aesthetically challenging dynamic which makes the space have a heterogeneous feel in its spatial representation. The challenge for the university and CPB, then, was manifold and included such problems as creating a holistic and cohesive campus, offering a look and feel that would signify the vision of a new university, and to do this within the scope and limitations set by both the university and the city itself. This holistic approach to the space and architecture is one of the qualities that Chamberlin, Powell and Bon were known for, and ultimately became one of the functional aspects of the new university campus at Leeds: "A university should have a sense of wholeness which is not fostered by segregated planning." (Chamberlin 1969: 3)

The second Development Plan (1963 - the first was published in 1960) concentrated on the area around what came to be known as Chancellor's Court and its surrounding precinct (see above image). This included departments for maths, science and also administration buildings along with what became the Roger Stevens Lecture Theatre, although the final design of the theatre differs greatly from the one that appeared in the plan). Such was the significance of the hiring of CPB for this project, that the two Development Plans became significant documents in their own right on an international level. And, William Whyte in his article 'The Modernist Moment at the University of Leeds, 1957-1977' (2008), even includes mention of these plans in his abstract, stating "The Development Plan also highlights the way in which architects of the British modern movement used universities as laboratories in which to experiment with ideas about community and proper urban design." (2008: 169) Having previously completed the famous Golden Lane Estate, along with the nearby Barbican complex in London (which included a school) and also two other schools, CPB themselves were seen as the architects du jour, and these development plans became a kind of 'blueprint' for the modern university.

Related Links:
Postwar University Campus Expansion: Part 1 - Channeling Venetian Plazas
Bodington Halls
The University of Leeds: A Very Short History

Chamberlin, Peter. 'The Evolution and Realization of the University Development Plan', The University of Leeds Review, 12, 1 (May 1969), 3-17.
Whyte, William. 'The Modernist Moment at the University of Leeds, 1957-1977', The Historical Journal, 51, 1 (2008), 169-193.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Bodington Hall - An Outstanding Redevelopment Opportunity

This is the sign at the entrance to the out-of-town University of Leeds halls of residence, Bodington Hall. Interestingly, the University of Leeds seem to still be selling it as a conference venue. However, the website says this is the last semester that there will be students here.

I went for a dérive there today and it was looking a bit like a ghost town. In fact I saw more squirrels than people: only one student, two older people at a bus stop, a cleaner and a lorry driver. It's a large complex of halls, that up till now had 1140 beds. It has large sports fields, a social centre and its own one-way road system. Truly "an outstanding redevelopment opportunity"!

But what is the most significant of its attributes is this fabulous frieze by Hubert Dalwood, who was in the Fine Art Department at the University of Leeds for a while. I'm in the process of finding out its future.

The buildings of the style above were completed in 1963 and photos of them appear in the 1963 Chamberlin, Powell and Bon architectural plan (although the actual architects were Jones and Stocks). This is what the Times said about the halls in 1961: "a building of considerable grace and dignity". Nevertheless, I guess grace and dignity will be built over by some hideous "toy town" type of contemporary housing (call me cynical). These 1960s buildings (above) look pretty good and have in the large part been well-maintained. These other buildings (see below) look like they may date from the late 70s or early 80s. But I have no further information on them at present.

And what about this great chimney, which looks positively Victorian, although I'm sure it's from 1960. It's attached to something that looks like the engine room, which has a similar look to the 1960s halls.

This campus space is in 'the middle of nowhere', as it might be for a student wanting to be in the hub of things (in the rush hour it takes 45mins for students to get to the campus by bus). So, I thought I'd try and find what there was on-site for them in terms of amenities. I was surprised that I could get into the main hall, which I entered in an attempt to find coffee for myself. I saw a sign which said 'Bod Shop' but when I found Bod Shop, it was shut.

There was also a bar, which was only open on occasions, it said, due to lack of demand. And a billiards hall, which looks like it was still stuck in the sixties.

So, what is to become of this space when it is bought by a property developer? Well, I'm sure this fabulous building, which supports the lovely frieze, won't be kept. Look at those great windows and the elevated floor.

Click here to see a super aerial photo of the halls and to appreciate how large it is - oh, and to see the marketing blurb in terms of the sale: DTZ

Related Links:
The University of Leeds: A Very Short History
70s Photo of Mortain House, Bodington Hall
70s Photo of Vaughan House, Bodington Hall

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Postwar University Campus Expansion: Part 1 - Channelling Venetian Plazas

The boom in campus expansion from 1960 to 1970 was the largest ever undertaken in Britain, with students increasing from 100,000 to 200,000 by the end of the 1970s and the number of universities almost doubling, with 46 reached in total by the end of the decade. (Birks 1972: 9) This was a monumental task for in-house university architects, bursars and estate administrators alike. Thus the undertaking of Chamberlin, Powell and Bon as Master Planners at the University of Leeds, rather than architects per se, enabled an outside influence to oversee the plan and provide time and skill in an attempt to both work within the existing campus space, and provide solutions to the potential problems attached to the expansion of that space.

The initial 1960s report produced by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon (CPB) was considered by them to be "a record of enquiry and research", rather than "a final pattern of development which must be accepted or rejected in toto". (CPB 1960: 7) It set out their original aspirations for the new university and contained images of Venetian plazas in order to suggest what an inspirational "civilized environment" for a university should look like. (CPB 1960: 40) This original plan also included a proposal for a circular reading room influenced by the style of the ruins of Nymphaeum in Tivoli, Italy and an additional great hall redolent of the Galleria in Milan, neither of which became manifest or even made it to the next plan which came out in 1963. The conclusion of the 1960s plan states the underlying raison d'être of the plan itself: "what is the problem? how can it be solved? how much and what type of building will be needed? how much land will be needed for this building? how long will it take? how much will it cost?" (CPB 1960: 97)

The final paragraph of the plan stresses the town and gown aspect of the university and how it should be more connected to the town, and finishes by saying "For it is no exaggeration to say that the confidence of a civilisation in itself may be judged by the value of its investment of energy and wealth in the widening of educational opportunities for the coming generations." (ibid.) It would be another two years before the next plan appeared, although work had begun on stage one of the actual campus development in that interim period.

Campus History:
Postwar University Campus Expansion: Part 2 - Campus as Urban Laboratory
The University of Leeds: A Very Short History

Birks, Tony. 1972. Building the New Universities (Newton Abbot: David and Charles).
Chamberlin, Powell and Bon. 1960. University of Leeds Development Plan (Leeds: The University of Leeds).