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Bartlett Buildings: 22 Gordon Street

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Headquarters of The Bartlett faculty and home to the School of Architecture, 22 Gordon Street is the award-winning building formerly known as Wates House.

Bartlett Buildings: 22 Gordon Street

Front entrance of 22 Gordon Street, photographed in October 2017.

Credit: Jack Hobhouse

Bartlett Buildings: 22 Gordon Street

Students at work in the studios.

Credit: Jack Hobhouse

This modern six-storey block bears little resemblance to its predecessor Wates House, which was renovated and extended between 2014 and 2016 to designs by the architects Hawkins\Brown.

The expansion of The Bartlett from 1975 had left Wates House outdated and inadequate in size, despite the transferral of departments to nearby buildings in Bloomsbury. The building had been designed for 380 students, yet was used by more than 2,000 by 2012. Bob Sheil, Director of the School of Architecture, has said that: “It had got to the point where the building was starting to suffocate the school. There wasn’t enough space to do what we wanted to do.”

The revival of the building, along with other Bartlett spaces, gained investment from UCL Estates through its £1.2bn Transforming UCL initiative. Between 2011 and 2017, approximately 60% of the faculty’s spaces were refurbished. Several approaches were considered for the transformation of Wates House, from extension to demolition and rebuilding, before settling on Hawkins\Brown’s ‘deep retrofit’ approach. The project team included Gilbert Ash as the main contractor and Curtins Consulting as structural engineers.

Transformation from the inside

The Bartlett School of Architecture was decanted to a converted warehouse at 132–140 Hampstead Road, which provided a temporary base during the building works. Hawkins\Brown was entrusted with overseeing the adaptation of the warehouse into studios, offices and flexible open-plan spaces for the architectural school. The School of Planning and the faculty library were transferred permanently to Central House in Upper Woburn Place.

Wates House was stripped back to its concrete frame and core staircases, which are visible in the renovated building. The block was enlarged by an additional storey, perimeter extensions, and the construction of a south-west range fronting Gordon Street. The enlarged block is clad with grey handmade bricks – known as ‘the Gordon Street Klinker’ – intended to cohere with the materials of the Bloomsbury conservation area. These German-manufactured bricks were also suited to the existing concrete frame, owing to their relative lightness in comparison to London stock bricks. The street façades have large glazed areas, which provide interesting views from each storey and open the work and activity of the school to the public.

Bartlett Buildings: 22 Gordon Street

New lockers and studio space sit next to some of the original columns of Wates House.

Credit: Jack Hobhouse

Bartlett Buildings: 22 Gordon Street

The staircase and landings on each floor are some of the building’s many deliberately indeterminate, adaptable spaces.

Credit: Jack Hobhouse

Bartlett Buildings: 22 Gordon Street

The sixth floor.

Credit: Jack Hobhouse

Space to think and make

The main entrance opens into a large reception area, a double-height and open-plan space used variously for exhibitions and events. A permanent focus is the wide steel and oak-lined staircase, which opens onto spacious landings used for exhibitions, events and social gatherings. The ground floor also contains seminar rooms and access to the Christopher Ingold Lecture Theatre in the adjacent chemistry block. The basement contains the B-made workshops for fabrication, metalwork and woodwork, with access to a rear yard.

The first floor is devoted mostly to offices, including a computer centre, a printing room, and seminar rooms. The upper floors comprise a mixture of studio space, staff offices, seminar rooms and tutorial rooms. The sixth floor has a roof terrace with impressive views northwards beyond Euston Station.

Sheil has emphasised that “the one thing we asked for loudly and clearly was more space … we didn’t want any money spent on anything that was superfluous”. Hawkins\Brown’s designs succeeded in doubling the original capacity of the building for staff and students, while at the same time making a positive contribution to the Bloomsbury conservation area.

The revived block provides an assortment of practical spaces for staff and students, with minimalist finishes. Polished concrete floors sweep through public and studio spaces, with carpets confined to offices and meeting rooms. Student desks incorporate model racks, shelving and cork pin-up boards.

22 Gordon Street was officially opened by The University of London’s Chancellor, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, in December 2016. The Architects’ Journal celebrated its transformation with a review by Bartlett School of Architecture alumnus Jean-Jacques Lorraine (of Morrow + Lorraine), who described the building as “light-filled, open-minded and open-hearted”.

The building has since won a series of awards, including a Higher and Further Education Award (AJ Retrofit Awards 2017), Project of the Year & Refurbishment of the Year (Education Estates Awards 2017), Education Award (New London Awards 2017) and a London Regional Award (RIBA Awards 2017).

The Bartlett Buildings series is produced by Amy Smith, Historian, Survey of London, part of The Bartlett School of Architecture.

The Bartlett is UCL's Faculty of the Built Environment, comprising 12 multidisciplinary schools, institutes and centres. Find out more:

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The Bartlett, UCL
22 Gordon Street
London WC1H 0QB

+44 (0)20 7679 2000

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