Coventry University Hub is a new 8950 sq m building which brings together state-of-the-art facilities for student's informal learning and well-being under one roof.
Taking a bold and innovative approach responding to the highly competitive market to attract and retain students, Coventry University commissioned Hawkins\Brown to create a ‘home from home’ for its 10,000+ students. The resultant Hub is a one-stop-shop responding to students’ key needs by providing a place to visit during the day for socialising and informal learning whilst creating a safe and vibrant environment during the evening for entertainment.
Located at the heart of the campus and within the historic quarter famed for Coventry Cathedral, Sir Basil Spence’s post-war modernist icon, the L-shaped plan of the new £19m building opens up previously inaccessible routes through the campus and links to the city centre. The main East-West route across campus has been widened and allows for a long view of the cathedral spire. A large bright yellow steel gate utilised during evening events protects external courtyards created within the depth of the plan. Along the north and east elevation the building recesses at ground floor level to provide shelter on the approach to the two main entrances into the Hub. A roof terrace maximises the opportunity for green spaces and offers striking views across the university campus and city centre beyond.
A key feature of the new building, the exterior is clad with a flush glazed curtain walling system wrapped around like a taut skin or hard shell. Taking inspiration from the neighbouring cathedral’s use of artist designed decorative glass, the glazing here is patterned with a ceramic frit that enlivens the facade and creates a surface texture with depth. The absolutely flush surface provides a clean unbroken sightline to emphasize the dramatic sculptural form of the building.
Designed with state-of-the-art IT, networking and security facilities, Coventry University Hub is open 24/7 and able to accommodate 1000 students at any one time. It provides a comprehensive range of facilities including dedicated areas for employment and careers, health and faith arranged over 4-storeys. Additional facilities include a Student Union bar and flexible event space that can cater for gigs, screenings and productions. Areas are colour zoned according to the primary function: yellow for informal learning; red for entertainment and to indicate that alcohol may be consumed; purple for medical; and blue for faith.
2,800 sqm of space within the building is allocated to Informal Learning and at first floor level the space extends over 100 metres along the northern perimeter. Fusing the library and common room – if the Hub as a whole is ‘home from home’, Informal Learning is the ‘living room’ for the campus.
Responding to a growing trend of students living at home with their parents and travelling in to the University for the day, Informal Learning provides a place for students to pass time between lectures – to socialize, relax or carry out private study. Both students and staff share facilities to encourage cross-fertilization between disciplines as well as breakdown traditional barriers.
The design rejects the use of conventional rooms in favour of playful bright yellow bespoke furniture – booths and nests – which are of a sufficient size to sub-divide the space further and provide small-scale semi-enclosed interiors. The bespoke furniture comes complete with power and large flat screens to work in tandem with laptops (personal or available on loan from the reception) with a wireless network available throughout the building (including the roof terrace), providing all the facilities required for activities ranging from private research to group tutorials.
Playing on the idea of a ‘home from home’ the booths are house shaped, the nests contain super-sized ‘fatboy’ bean bags and domestic fittings including sofas, low slung chairs, rugs, wallpaper and lampshades are employed throughout to create a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.