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UEL architecture students work behind the scenes at Broadgate estate redevelopment

UEL in London

Students help design facilities for project’s workers

Architecture students at the University of East London (UEL) have played an important, behind-the-scenes role in the rapid and impressive transformation of Broadgate, a 32-acre office and retail estate in the City of London.

Located near the high-speed Crossrail’s Elizabeth line, set to open in December 2018, Broadgate, at 100 Liverpool Street, will offer office space, shops, rooftop dining and public spaces – all designed and built according to the highest ecological standards. 

But what about the countless engineers, builders, plumbers, carpenters, labourers and other trade professionals who are turning this exciting vision into a reality? UEL’s Architecture students helped create an inspiring environment for these essential workers. 

It all started in 2017, when Sir Robert McAlpine, a leading UK construction and engineering company, approached UEL with an invitation for students to participate in a competition to design and build welfare facilities for workers to use during the construction phase of redevelopment at Broadgate.   

The brief required students to look at ways to provide welfare provision such as toilets, hot and cold water for washing, changing facilities, drinking water and somewhere to eat and rest. They were asked to come up with ideas which would exceed expectations while also safeguarding the health and well-being of workers.

Sir Robert McAlpine worked with UEL and British Land, which owns the Broadgate site, to select a winning design from three shortlisted teams of UEL students.

There were good ideas from each of the teams, so the decision was made to interview and appoint five students from across the three teams to deliver the project. 

The UEL undergraduate and postgraduate students selected – Kirk Slankard, Robin Philpot, Darlyn Norlay, Nuno Lopes and John Francis Benedicto – worked closely with Sir Robert McAlpine’s framework design manager Jeff Tidmarsh, and contractor Avondale. Avondale sponsored the students’ employment for six months.

The welfare facilities, at 1 Finsbury Avenue, opened in October 2017. The space featured a canteen, kitchen, secure storage, showers, toilets and washing facilities for men and women, offices for supervisors, a multi-faith room and an auditorium for daily safety inductions, training and meetings.

One of the quirkier ideas from students was to repurpose fire doors to create walls, dining tables, benches and the auditorium.

The students even utilised an unused Italian restaurant on the ground floor of 1 Finsbury Avenue to set-up a one week public exhibition in June under the aegis of the London Festival of Architecture.

‘Reflections on Broadgate - past, present and future’ showcased the students’ experience, the work of architects employed on the redevelopment of Broadgate, and the site’s history, including photographs of the original construction of Broadgate.

The exhibition culminated in an open evening which celebrated the achievements and opportunities of the project, with content put in a catalogue that drew together reflections from a divergent group of people involved with the estate over the past forty years.

UEL students described the experience as “an assault course in architecture and construction” and said they valued the opportunity to grow in professional and personal confidence by tackling real-life challenges, deadlines and collaboration under pressure. 

And cooperation between UEL and Broadgate partners continues, with a new competition, announced earlier this year, offering architecture students paid three-month placements to work as part of a small team in Broadgate which is finding ways to enhance public and private space within the area’s buildings.

This Broadgate student team project will be unveiled in June, to again coincide with the London Festival of Architecture. 

The opportunity is offered in partnership with Allford Hall Monaghan Morris architects, ScotttWhitbyStudio, British Land, and Sir Robert McAlpine.