FC&A Magazine - Future Constructor & Architect
How mixed-use campuses complete the student experience

Universities need to operate in a global market, not only attracting local students but also competing to entice international students and academics. Tracey Francis, Director at LK2, which specialises in sports and leisure development and architecture, discusses how universities can complete the student experience by enhancing their campuses.


The higher education landscape is constantly changing and it’s crucial for universities to think and act as a consumer-friendly business that needs to meet the needs of millions of young customers, while also maintaining an academic rigour and being part of their surrounding community.

Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to attracting students domestically or globally; each university needs to identify their individual markets and create campuses that reflect the needs and desires of these groups.

Universities cannot afford to rest on their laurels and campuses must not be static, as changing approaches to learning, leisure, lifestyle and sport will mean different demands are constantly being made on these spaces. Institutions need to create campus strategies that are flexible, ensuring that their space and their strategies align.

An age-old problem

There is a high-concentration of ageing 20th century buildings on university campuses, all of which bring the need for costly renovation or replacement. Many of our universities must balance the stewardship of historic buildings with the need for hi-tech research, business and sporting infrastructure – this juxtaposition is challenging for universities to manage, especially in such a
competitive landscape.

The majority of buildings on UK campuses were built prior to 1975. However, new builds are being favoured above renovation and modernisation. Today’s students expect high-end accommodation, multiple dining options, and modern fitness and recreational facilities, yet fulfilling these expectations comes at a hefty cost. Universities need to develop a clear strategy for their campuses, empowering them to celebrate, protect, and upgrade their buildings.

Reimagining the possible

In 1915, 70% of available space was built specifically for academic purposes. Just over 100 years later, the ratio is now closer to 50-50, which is indicative of the current education market. Destination campuses, with a unique sense of purpose are now winning hearts and minds of students over conservatism and tradition. Students and parents are more discerning about their hard-earned cash and the balance between academic achievement and the ancillary services universities provide are now judged in equal measure.

There are numerous opportunities available when developing mixed-use campuses which offer more than traditional learning spaces. LK2 always looks to blend tradition with innovation and creativity, ensuring we are able to tap into every level and sector and support the future-proofing of the UK’s most iconic campuses.

We are integrally linked to the commercial and sport sectors, and we work to maximise the opportunity for external funding, grant aid, and new and creative business partnerships.

Collaborative campuses

Creating an agile campus requires a combination of tactics and collaboration with local authorities, developers and land owners alongside universities. The institutions need to fit within a much wider framework of master planning, aligning to opportunities for population, business and commercial growth plans.

Creating modern state-of-the-art facilities is key. Universities are well positioned to rationalise local facility stock, ensuring not only their students benefit from their campuses but also open these amenities up to local communities and businesses.

Providing a sustainable business model is vital to creating a mixed-use campus. It needs to impact positively on both the university and the communities and businesses it serves.

A living example

The LK2 team has won a number of awards for its work in transforming campuses, with our redevelopment of Constance Stewart Hall at Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU) recently taking home the coveted ‘Outstanding Project’ and ‘Best Commercial Project’ awards at the Lincoln Good Design Awards 2019.

The £3m redevelopment formed part of a 19-year ongoing relationship between LK2 and BGU, with previous works delivered by our team including; a £4.3m student residence, the £1m Refectory, and the £1.3m Robert Hardy Building.

On the project – which was procured through the empa framework managed by Scape Group – we worked alongside Lincolnshire construction company Robert Woodhead, and Price & Myers. A main focus of the redevelopment was to create flexible teaching spaces fit for a variety of uses, while also sensitively enhancing a campus which is steeped in over 150 years of local history.

A main focus of the redevelopment was to create flexible teaching spaces fit for a variety of uses, while also sensitively enhancing a campus which is steeped in over 150 years of local history. Phase two of the scheme focussed on a state-of-the-art 7770ft² extension added over Constance Stewart Hall, allowing space for new teaching rooms to be created.

Our team incorporated moveable partition walls into the extension’s design, which were installed to provide greater flexibility and enable the university to utilise the space as individual teaching rooms or large, multi-functional spaces.

The new extension features a curved glass wall, which mirrors the outlines of the original building; paying homage to its history. One of the most striking elements of the building’s design is how it visually blends together both new and old elements, the contemporary extension appearing to sail over the original building, perfectly mirroring and enhancing the history of the campus.

We are incredibly proud of the building. Its striking design has helped BGU to become a landmark in the region and shows significant investment, having an impact not only on the university and its students, but also the local community and visitors to Lincoln.

Steve Deville, Director of resources at the university, said: “It certainly has the wow-factor – working on several levels both as an asset for the university and the city. We have had some very, very positive comments. It is a fantastic shop window for us as it shows the university is investing in the future and reflects our core values.

“First and foremost is the learning experience for students – I feel quite privileged to be part of what we are trying to build for the next generation and how we invest to improve student experience.”

The campus has been designed to be future-proof and sustainable, with the flexibility of its large teaching spaces allowing Constance Stewart Hall’s extension to be used beyond day-to-day studying and teaching, with the potential to be rented out as commercial event space when not in use by students and staff.

Tangible results

There are various benefits to providing a well-integrated community offer within universities. Part of the work we have been doing focusses on reviewing existing stock and finding the best way to enhance and optimise campuses.

In many cases, implementing community usage has allowed universities to enhance their facilities with new funding, often through the installation of artificial grass pitches, swimming pool enhancements, better changing facilities, state-of-the-art performance studios and fitness suites in the process. As sectors continue to converge and the lifestyles of students consistently change, the creation of mixed-use campuses has become more important than ever before.

Contact LK2

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