Southampton Solent's Spark Building completes
‘The Spark’ is conceived as an academic hub and showcase for excellence in learning, teaching, research, innovation and student achievement.
The ‘game-changing’ design of this 10,000 sq m, BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rated building promotes interdisciplinary activity and collaboration; enabling staff and students to see and share their learning and teaching experiences, knowledge and research.
The building interfaces with the Sir John Everett Millais Building on East Park Terrace and provides a ‘mixed economy’ of teaching and learning spaces to enhance the centrally timetabled general teaching accommodation on the University’s city centre campus. Facilities also include a café and conference centre enabling increased university engagement with businesses and communities at local, regional and national level. Utilising the existing topography of the site, two large destination lecture theatres (including a Harvard style lecture theatre) are located below the main atrium level. Accommodation is arranged over five storeys around an impressive, full-height atrium space with a stunning ‘Solent Red’ pod at its centre and a high definition digital media wall at the far eastern end.
The Pod ‘welcomes’ students, staff and visitors to ‘The Spark’ and has a curvilinear lecture space at its heart and an open break-out area on top with commanding views over the atrium / East Park. Like the University, this sculptural element is distinctive, bold, ambitious and innovative.The atrium unifies the new and existing whilst providing a major arrival space, social learning areas and a venue for large events including presentations, graduation ceremonies, gala dinners, exhibitions and fashion shows. The atrium is also fundamental to the circulation, ventilation and temperature control strategies.
Key features including the Pod, the theatre steps below, the open galleries, projecting balconies, bridges, the pristine white screen walls, ‘super-graphics’ illustrating the University’s specialisms and sunlight entering via the linear roof lights combine to give the atrium a dynamic, engaging and uplifting character. The Pod was designed by Scott Brownrigg and crafted in the Netherlands by free-form metal specialist CIG Architecture and shipped to Southampton in pre-finished pieces for assembly on site. Other elements pre-fabricated off-site include the bespoke, 7.2m x 3.6m, pre-glazed, pre-insulated, pre-cast concrete cladding panels which allowed the external walls to be formed in less than 6 weeks without the need for scaffolding.
‘The Spark’ is technology-rich and incorporates high specification mobile and fixed technologies, high capacity wireless as well as wired networks; supporting contemporary initiatives including BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), the growth of the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) and the ‘Flipped Classroom’. Loose furniture systems throughout the building can be reconfigured to create different layouts facilitating a very wide range of teaching and learning styles and satisfying a wide variety of end user needs. Digital classroom management and attendance monitoring systems linked to the University’s central timetabling system have been provided throughout which will revolutionise space utilisation monitoring and management at the University.
Overall, the design of ‘The Spark’ simultaneously conveys a sense of permanence, dynamism, openness and transparency.
The Spark Building is the latest addition to the University’s city centre campus and is part of their £100 million campus development plan, due for completion in 2020.
Scott Brownrigg’s involvement in the project has been from the very beginning, and working with the University they have been instrumental in helping shape the future plans for estate development on the city campus.