- Hodder + Partners
As the number of students in higher education in the UK steadily increases, so too do the need to provide them with accommodation. Once upon a time universities themselves built ‘halls of residence’ but now? The private sector has a growing share of an ever more competitive market. ‘Student Castle’ is a new company specialising in student accommodation with a commitment to ‘change the perception of traditional private student accommodation by meeting 21st century student aspiration.’ 1 Great Marlborough Street is its second scheme in the UK.
With approximately 110.000 students over its four universities Manchester is said to have the highest student population in Europe. By locating in the city centre what they believe is the tallest student accommodation in Europe, and what is definitely the third tallest building in Manchester, ‘Student Castle’ have certainly made their mark. This 37-storey mark could easily have been a crude disfigurement, not just of the immediate location but of the whole city itself, but architects Hodder + Partners have sculpted an elegant solution which is strong and confident and at the same time carefully stated.
The tight site is immediately adjacent to Oxford Road station and the viaduct that carries the main line railway through the city. At ground level there is a street pattern of largely 5-storey 19th century redbrick industrial buildings, many converted to a wild mixture of apartments, clubs and bars, and through this the River Medlock winds its secretive course through the city. The base of the building is formed of a six-storey plinth which occupies the full 22 meters depth of the site, and addresses the heights of the railway viaduct and the adjacent buildings to the east in New Wakefield Street. The majority of the building is placed above the plinth in a narrow structure that occupies less than fifteen metres of the site’s depth, facing east-west, parallel to Great Marlborough Street. The thin profile that the building presents to the north and the south, and the fact that the mass is presented in a cluster of four towers or slices each rising to a different height, all reduce the building’s potential dominance of its site.
This ‘shearing’ of the mass is underlined by the architects ordering the windows that light the lift lobbies and the ends of the corridors on each floor in continuous vertical lines which mark the division between the four towers on each face of the building.
Hodder + Partners have worked hard to give the multiple faces of the building interest and dynamism. This is achieved partly by deeply profiled curtain walling and the careful organisation of the various components of windows, aluminium panels and room vents using the full capabilities of the Reynaers CW 50 and CW 60 systems, but also by the selective use of bronze-finished panels to relieve the dominant palette of grey. The most distinctive feature of the building’s external form is the soft pattern of 450mm wide ceramic tiles which clad the extensive unbroken planes on all sides of the building. Made up of a random disposition of only four colours, this has the effect of merging the building into the Manchester skyline. An ingenious internal configuration uses eleven different room or apartment shapes to provide a range of accommodation types for 540 students. Rooms are cleverly planned, with big windows – and big views. None of the windows can be opened (each room being separately ventilated) but the building still gained a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ classification, partly due to the extensive use of air-source heat pumps and heat exchange for both cooling and hot water, as well as Reynaers CS 68 high performance three-chamber window system for insulation and air-tightness. Vision 50 doors provided on the ground floor are integrated into a 24/7 security control system where all users gain access through doors and into lifts by a numeric security system.
Although Manchester’s skyline is already pierced by a variety of smaller towers rising above Victorian mills, factories and insurance company headquarters, 1 Great Marlborough Street is a new feature on the Manchester skyline that marks a new phase in the development of the city, putting a new economy at the top of its agenda.
- Hodder + Partners
- Shephard Construction (General contractor)