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College gets creative with furniture

University College London responds to the increase of its student population by refreshing and refurbishing 1-19 Torrington Place, Bloomsbury campus.


University College London (UCL) appointed Structure Tone & John Robertson Architects (JRA) to create bespoke learning environments through impactful design and quality that reflects the excellent reputation that the university currently upholds.

Furniture specialist Rainbow was selected to work alongside JRA and Structure Tone to deliver a refurbishment and interior fit-out of 1-19 Torrington Place for UCL in Bloomsbury.

The team have carried out works and improved the entrance, reception area as well as a combination of teaching and learning spaces across the ground and lower ground floor.

The improvements have allowed an increase in student occupancy as well as better accessibility within a contemporary and modern setting.

Working with the university’s design team, Structure Tone helped develop a re-stacking scheme to renovate level 10, refurbish the ground floor and the basement, thus providing new reception spaces and breakout/social areas all while normal operations continued on the floors above. To overcome this obstacle, a four-phased plan was put into place.

Booths and various breakout spaces allow for students and visitors to congregate, work together and collaborate on new ideas
The new, transformed spaces now offer 542 seats of specialist teaching space

The first phase entailed the re-location of the advanced teaching department on the ground floor to level 10. The team refurbished level 10 and provided meeting rooms, office areas and breakout rooms to allow for a smooth transition. Once this floor was cleared and vacant, works from level 10 moved down to the ground floor and basement where the project team refurbished the spaces to accommodate high occupancy, technical lecture theatres as well as flexible classrooms, breakout areas and a new reception area. Everything was finished to a high specification and, as a form of way-finding, certain areas have been finished in specific colours – the white ceiling finishes indicate teaching spaces and the black colour signifies the front of house and communal areas, including exposed cladding high level service, sprayed acoustic sofits and eye-catching bespoke timber slatted joinery walls throughout. A quick and efficient turnaround allowed the team to open the east reception area, thus allowing building users to have direct access to the higher levels.

The third phase involved continuing with construction to the rest of the reception area. This included the removal and relocation of the curtain walling in order to remodel the once-dated building fabric incorporating a revolving door and altogether revised access strategy. And finally the fourth phase involved the installation of IT/AV system integration with the new furniture layout throughout.

A majority of the works were completed before the beginning of the new academic term, minimising disruption and allowing the university to get settled before classes resumed.

The new, transformed spaces now offer 542 seats of specialist teaching space and 10 new learning and social spaces as well as a new DDA lift, security speed gates and striking reception desk. Booths and various breakout spaces allow for students and visitors to congregate, work together and collaborate on new ideas or even compare notes!

Teaching spaces feel bright and spacious through the clever use of colour used within the furniture. For instance, the interior of the lecture theatre is lifted with different shades of blue on the auditorium seating whilst teaching rooms make use of colourful upholstered seats to inject colour into the areas. Tables and chairs on castors were provided so that the space can be reconfigured quickly and easily to suit various requirements. Other rooms have been provided with task chairs with tablet arms for ease of note taking and storage underneath chairs to allow for quick storage whilst making room for more students to occupy the room without feeling too crammed in.

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