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LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre

The Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at the London School of Economics is a multifunctional building with a large music venue, pub, learning cafe, union offices, prayer centre, dance studio, careers library and gym. The project is located at the knuckle-point convergence of the network of narrow streets that characterise the LSE city centre campus. A public space at the threshold of the Student Centre is positioned on axis with St Clement’s Lane, to pull pedestrian street life into and up the building.

LSE-Saw-Swee-Hock-Student-Centre-SAW-By-ODonnell-Tuomey-05-Alex-Bland-759x628 LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre (SAW) / O'Donnell + Tuomey

© Alex Bland

“The design intention was to create an active Student Centre, the character of which should be contemporary, inviting, welcoming and even provoking to its users. Inside the building open stairways spiral around the central lift shaft that forms a skewering pivotpoint at the centre of gravity of the plan. These wide stairs with slow steps make a flowing continuous ribbon of movement from street to roof garden, a vertical building working as a single organism.” – O’Donnell + Tuomey

LSE-Saw-Swee-Hock-Student-Centre-SAW-By-ODonnell-Tuomey-14-Alex-Bland-884x1200 LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre (SAW) / O'Donnell + Tuomey

© Alex Bland

The building is designed to embody the dynamic character of a contemporary Student Union. The complex geometries of the site provided a starting point for an unconventional arrangement of irregular floor plates, each one particular to its function and each working into the next by an intricate system of trapezoidal spatial configuration. Space flows freely in horizontal plan and vertical section, with stairs gently twisting and slowly turning to create a variety of diagonal break-out spaces at landings and crossings throughout the building.

LSE-Saw-Swee-Hock-Student-Centre-SAW-By-ODonnell-Tuomey-19-Dennis-Gilbert-759x861 LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre (SAW) / O'Donnell + Tuomey

© Dennis Gilbert

O’Donnell + Tuomey Architects were selected as architects for a proposed New Students’ Centre through a two stage international architectural design competition in June 2009.

The proposal was to create an active Student Union, using democratic, everyday, unusual architecture of useful beauty, born out of an understanding of context. The brief was to bring student facilities together under one roof. The multi-functional building includes a venue, pub, learning café, media, prayer, offices, gym, careers, dance studio and social spaces. The brief asked for the “best student building in the UK” and had the aspiration for BREEAM Excellent rating. The design achieved BREEAM Outstanding.

LSE-Saw-Swee-Hock-Student-Centre-SAW-By-ODonnell-Tuomey-20-LSE-759x506 LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre (SAW) / O'Donnell + Tuomey

© LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre

  • The centre houses a student’s union and student focussed departments. Since opening its doors on 6th January 2014 praise for the building has flooded in from students, staff and architecture critics alike.
  • The student hub forms the heart of LSE. O’Donnell & Tuomey’s architectural intention was to create an inviting, welcoming space that inspired its users. They aspired to transform the student social experience by creating the best student’s centre in the UK.
LSE-Saw-Swee-Hock-Student-Centre-SAW-By-ODonnell-Tuomey-42-Dennis-Gilbert-759x955 LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre (SAW) / O'Donnell + Tuomey

© Dennis Gilbert

  • Inside the building, open stairways spiral around a central lift shaft flowing from street to roof garden. SAS International’s bespoke wall linings feature around this structure which, according to the practice, ‘forms a skewering pivot point at the centre of gravity of the plan’. O’Donnell & Tuomey worked with SAS International to design the multicoloured vitreous enamel panels, creating the focal design feature through the centre of the building.
  • This landmark design with green credentials is set to become London’s most sustainable higher education building. The ‘BREAM Outstanding’ rating exceeded the ‘Excellent’ rating originally targeted in the brief.
  • Building credentials include BREEAM Outstanding design rating, EPC “A” rating, DEC “A” rating- a first in London. Through robust detailing, building form and orientation, thermal massing, flexibility of building plan and smart systems design, active cooling has been removed. Building energy demands are met through Low/ Zero carbon technologies.
LSE-Saw-Swee-Hock-Student-Centre-SAW-By-ODonnell-Tuomey-27-LSE LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre (SAW) / O'Donnell + Tuomey

© LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre

O’Donnell + Tuomey:

Within and without the building:

The site is located at the knuckle-point convergence of the network of narrow streets that characterise the LSE city centre campus. The public space at the threshold of the Student Union on axis with St Clement’s Lane, creates a place of exchange; a spatial bowtie that intertwines circulation routes, splices visual connections between internal and external movement, and pulls pedestrian street life into and up the building. We have developed a site specific sculptural concept for the architectural design. The folded, chamfered, canted and faceted façade operates with respect to the Rights of Light Envelope and is tailored in response to specific lines of sight along approaching vistas and from street corner perspectives. The surface of the brick skin is cut out along fold lines to form large areas of transparent glazing framing views in and out from street to room. Like a Japanese puzzle, our design is carefully assembled to make one coherent volume from a complex set of interdependent component parts. Our analysis of the context has uniquely influenced the first principles of the design approach.

LSE-Saw-Swee-Hock-Student-Centre-SAW-By-ODonnell-Tuomey-45-LSE LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre (SAW) / O'Donnell + Tuomey

© LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre

Life in the Lively Form:

The building is designed to embody the dynamic character of a contemporary Student Union. The complex geometries of the site provided a starting point for an unconventional arrangement of irregular floor plates, each one particular to its function and each working into the next by an intricate system of trapezoidal spatial configuration. Space flows freely in horizontal plan and vertical section, with stairs gently twisting and slowly turning to create a variety of diagonal break-out spaces at landings and crossings throughout the building.

LSE-Saw-Swee-Hock-Student-Centre-SAW-By-ODonnell-Tuomey-49-Dennis-Gilbert LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre (SAW) / O'Donnell + Tuomey

© Dennis Gilbert

New into Old:

London is a city of bricks. The existing buildings on and adjacent to the site are built in bricks of varied and lively hue. Our design relates to the resilient characteristic of the city’s architecture with familiar materials made strange. The exterior walls are clad with bricks, used in a new way, with each brick offset from the next in an open work pattern, wrapping the walls in a permeable blanket that will create dappled daylight in particular spaces and, at night, when all the lights are on inside, the building will be seen from the streets like a glowing lattice lantern.

LSE-Saw-Swee-Hock-Student-Centre-SAW-By-ODonnell-Tuomey-50-Alex-Bland-860x1200 LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre (SAW) / O'Donnell + Tuomey

© Alex Bland

Material, Colour and Atmosphere:

Our design refers to the robust adaptability-in-use of a lived-in warehouse. Open work steel trusses or ribbed concrete slabs will cross the big spaces with solid wooden floors underfoot. Lightweight partitions made of clear and coloured glass and timber have sliding screens for flexibility in use. Circular steel columns prop office floors between the large span volumes and punctuate the open floor plan of the café. Stairs are made of terrazzo and plate steel. Concrete ceilings contribute thermal mass with acoustic clouds suspended to soften the sound. Every landing has a bench or built-in couch. There are no closed-in corridors. Every hallway has daylight and views in at least one direction. Every office workspace has views to the outside world. The basement floor area is lit from clerestory windows and roof lights to allow for daytime use. This building does not feel like a hotel, an office, or an academic institution. It is fresh and airy, heavy and light, open and clear, sculptural and social.

LSE-Saw-Swee-Hock-Student-Centre-SAW-By-ODonnell-Tuomey-58-Dennis-Gilbert-759x783 LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre (SAW) / O'Donnell + Tuomey

© Dennis Gilbert

Perforate Brick Screen:

The faceted facade of the building is composed of both solid and perforated brick areas and glazed screens.The perforated planes are constructed from a single leaf of brickwork with spaces in the flemish bond pattern to allow light to both infiltrate the interior spaces and filtrate out at night to create a pattern effect. The openwork brickwork is constructed in front of glazed screens that seal the building and incorporate opening sections to naturally ventilate the building. The extent of perforation has been developed to maximise daylight into the building. The perforated masonry is supported by a series of posts which connect back to the primary concrete frame. Solid brickwork in a flemish bond pattern blends into the perforated areas where openings / daylight is required.

LSE-Saw-Swee-Hock-Student-Centre-SAW-By-ODonnell-Tuomey-68-LSE LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre (SAW) / O'Donnell + Tuomey

© LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre

Project Data:

Project name: Saw Swee Hock Student Centre (SAW)
Location: 1 Sheffield St, London WC2A 2EY, United Kingdom
Coordinates: 51.514658, -0.117458
Type: School
Gross internal floor area: 6,101 sqm
Project Start: May 2011
Status: Built
Cost:

  • Construction Cost: £24.1 million
  • Construction Cost Per sqm: £3,952

Completion Year: December 2013
Opening Date: January 6, 2014
Visit London School of Economics’s website: here

Awards:

  • 2015 – Mies van der Rohe Awards – Finalist
  • 2015 – Civic Trust Awards – Category: Special Award for Brick – Winner
  • 2014 – Brick Awards (The Brick Development Association) – Supreme Award
  • 2014 – Brick Awards (The Brick Development Association) – Category: Best Education Building – Winner
  • 2014 – Brick Awards (The Brick Development Association) – Category: Use of Brick and Clay Products – Winner
  • 2014 – Concrete Society Awards – Category: Best Building (Education) – Winner
  • 2014 – LEAF Awards – Category: Public Building of the Year – Winner
  • 2014 – Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Awards – RIBA Stirling Prize – Winner
  • 2014 – Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Awards – RIBA London Building of the Year Award – Winner
  • 2014 – The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) Awards – RIAI Best International Award – Winner
  • 2014 – Irish Building and Design Awards – Category: International Architectural Project – Winner
  • 2014 – Irish Concrete Society Awards – International Award
  • 2014 – Architectural Association of Ireland (AAI Awards)

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: London School of Economics and Political Science, Estates Division
Architects: O’Donnell + Tuomey – 20A Camden Row, Dublin 8, Ireland
Project Manager: Turner & Townsend
Main contractor: Geoffrey Osborne Limited
Design Team:

  • John Tuomey, Sheila O’Donnell, Willie Carey, Geoff Brouder, Laura Harty, Kirstie Smeaton, Gary Watkin, Anne-Louise Duignan, Ciara Reddy, Jitka Leonard, Iseult O’Cleary, Henrik Wolterstorff, Mark Grehan, Monika Hinz

Collaborators:

  • Geoff Brouder, Gareth Morgan, Richard Fanning, Allan Graham, Samuel Bailey, Pat Brady, Peter Anthony, Gavin Loesberg, Umesh Patel, Giles Bruce, Gustavo Brunelli, Klaus Bode, Ian Knowles, Ned Crowe, Seb Jouan, Xavier Romero, Madhu Patel, Paul Carless, Kieran Elsdon, Graham Potts, Steven Nott, Adrian Cave (RIP), Stuart Schlindwien-Robinson, Marine Semichon, Pierre Gaston, Colin Roberts, David Stow, Nick Unsworth, James Beer, Martin Reed, Jason Farrer, Alex Wardle, Andy Shelley, Tom Richardson, Will Lingard, Michael Lowndes, Laura Harty, Henrik Wolterstorff, Ciara Reddy, Anne Louise Duignan, Mark Grehan, Kirstie Smeaton, Gary Watkin

Engineers:

  • Structural Engineer: Dewhurst Macfarlane and Partners / Horganlynch Consulting Engineers
  • Services + Environmental Engineer: BDSP

Consultants:

  • Security / Fire / Acoustics / Transport & Logistics / Venue: Arup
  • Quantity Surveyor: Northcroft
  • Planning Consultant: Turley Associates
  • Party Wall Consultant: Anstey Horne
  • Building Control Consultant: Carillion
  • Cdm Coordinator: Gardiner & Theobald
  • Archaeology consultant: Gifford

Text Description: © Courtesy of O’Donnell + Tuomey, LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, Mies van der Rohe Awards
Images: © O’Donnell + Tuomey, LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, Alex Bland, Dennis Gilbert

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LSE-Saw Swee Hock Student Centre (SAW) / O'Donnell + Tuomey
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