University of Exeter: Forum Project

Exeter, UK

WilkinsonEyre was appointed in 2008, after a two stage competition, to design The Forum as a new centrepiece for the University of Exeter's famously hilly Streatham Campus. Working with the natural features of the site, the scheme creates a green corridor to connect the Forum with the wider landscape. All the buildings and spaces in the Forum are related closely to the campus topography, establishing an architectural language which is less about placing objects in the landscape and more about an organic response to it.

Central to the scheme is an undulating timber gridshell roof, which shelters and unifies a series of new student-focused spaces within. With an area of more than 3,200m², the Forum's roof is the largest freeform timber gridshell in the UK. The fluid form contrasts with the orthogonal brick volumes of the existing buildings on this steeply sloping site, and respects key views across the city to Dartmoor.

The Forum features an extended and refurbished library, new learning spaces, student services, catering and retail outlets, a landscaped plaza and a new reception as part of a £450 million capital investment programme. The development has propelled Exeter into the top ten UK universities, it has been admitted to the prestigious Russell Group and in 2012 was named Sunday Times University of the Year. WilkinsonEyre worked closely with glass artist Alexander Beleschenko to conceive and develop a piece of art to sit in the outdoor sculpture trail across the Streatham Campus.

The piece is inspired by the colours of the university gardens, and has a ceramic frit on two surfaces to give it a subtle shimmer. Sustainability was an important driver in the development of the scheme, which has been designed to meet a series of a challenging environmental targets, and in doing so the project achieved a BREEAM Excellent accreditation.

"The buildings and spaces in the Forum are related closely to the campus topography, establishing an architectural language which is less about placing objects in the landscape and more about an organic response to it."