News & Insights

University of Huddersfield's new £30 million Barbara Hepworth Building reaches completion

The new AHR-designed Barbara Hepworth Building is complete and has been celebrated with a royal visit from HRH The Duke of York, KG. The £30 million building, built by Morgan Sindall Construction, will house the School of Art, Design and Architecture, enabling these disciplines to be united under one roof for the first time in an exciting hub of creative studios and technology facilities.

The new building brings digital and physical innovation together in one space, epitomising the School’s philosophy and acknowledging millennia of creative practice whilst looking ahead to the future. The design sets the scene for spontaneous interactions, ideas and innovations within, sparking new ways of working that will push the boundaries of creativity and find collaborative solutions to complex challenges.

Anthony Langan, Director and Education Lead at AHR, said, “The School’s aspiration and our shared vision with the University was to bring together students and staff across different creative courses and generations. We achieved this by approaching the design of the building as one open and flexible learning hub that will catalyse creativity through interconnected working and learning spaces. This also includes more relaxed areas, such as the café and outdoor terraces, which allow important chance encounters and casual discussions to take place.

“As architects, it is a great honour to design an exemplary and inspirational building in which the architects, designers and creatives of the future will develop their craft. We are very proud of what we have created and look forward to the possibilities that will be realised through its use.”

Paul Limb, Project Director at Morgan Sindall Construction, said: “This project has been incredibly rewarding for our team to work on. We’ve developed a strong relationship with the University over recent years, and it’s been a privilege to welcome students on to the site to learn more about the complex construction process involved in creating incredible buildings like this. Through the use of cutting-edge technology we’ve been able to deliver AHR’s ambitious vision for the University and create a building befitting of Barbara Hepworth’s legacy, and one that is the perfect environment for the School’s students to nurture their crafts.”

The design team was inspired by the ancient art of origami, developing an innovative and iconic cantilever structure that addresses the site’s 5 metre level change, while celebrating its canal-side location by offering stunning views.

The façade boasts a unique laser-cut veil, each panel individually designed by AHR, inspired by textiles and the history of the neighbouring mills, but with a contemporary and abstract twist. The panels minimise glare and overheating, while the building’s transparency gives passers-by an intriguing glimpse of the creative processes and advanced technologies at work within.

A vast and airy entrance atrium provides a central navigation point and a powerful welcome. The Phidias Lab allows students from across the School to enjoy and showcase work in virtual design disciplines, with high performance visualisation and motion capture resources. Other bespoke facilities include the Materials Library, textile design studios, print and dye areas, workshop areas, postgraduate research space, lecture space, and studios for photography, graphic design, product design and fashion, with CAD computer laboratories.

Sustainability was a key driver in the design process, with the building designed to achieve BREEAM Excellent with an EPC rating of A.

In order to bring AHR’s vision to life, Morgan Sindall Construction deployed cutting-edge digital construction and mixed-reality technology to enable its team to better examine the project as it developed, with 3D laser scanning proving crucial during the construction of the building’s audacious cantilevered structure. The use of Microsoft Hololens also enabled the project team to inspect and complete walk-throughs within a projection of the building in order to undertake surveys and risk assessments of the project as it developed, which proved crucial to the safety and smooth running of the scheme.

The building’s completion marks another successful project by AHR for the University of Huddersfield. The practice has completed a broad range of work across the Queensgate Campus, including the design and delivery of the £27 million Oastler Building – also built by Morgan Sindall Construction -, the extensive remodelling and refurbishment of the Joseph Priestley Building, and the conversion of the historic Sir John Ramsden Court from flats into University office accommodation.

AHR was shortlisted for Higher Education Architect of the Year in the 2019 BD Architect of the Year Awards and has won two RIBA Regional Awards this year.

Photos courtesy AHR.