Blog: A Connected Campus Supports Communities – Ann Allen, Chair A&DS

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Architecture and Design Scotland is participating in the Education Buildings Scotland Conference in 2018. In this article (previously published by the Education Buildings Magazine) Director of Estates of the University of Glasgow, and Chair of Architecture and Design Scotland, Ann Allen writes about how a major campus development project can benefit both the university and the community beyond.    

I often say that the role of a university building is simply to keep people warm and dry whilst enabling our amazing staff and students to do their world-changing work. This may be true though it is also worth considering that thoughtfully designed, developed educational buildings can do so much more.

The campus can make a significant contribution to the university and the wider local community. To do this we need to understand the environment that we are creating whilst being clear with what we would like that environment to do. Through place-making we can create stimulating environments for students, staff and local communities. We can create environments which can bring diverse communities together to work, live and play and which can support physical and mental well-being.

Major Capital Development

At the University of Glasgow we are focused on making sure our campus supports the ambition of the university and enhances the experience of the students. We have a beautiful and historic campus, known for the iconic Gilbert Scott Building. However, we have recently entered a period of major capital development delivering a number of new buildings. The University will invest £1 billion, deliver 100,000 square metres of new buildings and improve the existing estate – all by 2023.

The opportunity for a major capital programme has arisen from the purchase of a 14.5-acre site which is immediately contiguous to the main campus in Glasgow’s West End. The University recognised that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

A clear understanding has been developed which states that any investment had to support the University’s ambitions whilst contributing to the overall campus masterplan. Each project must introduce innovation in how we undertake research or pedagogy and create stimulating, inspiring and engaging space for staff and students.

A Porous Campus

The first step on this journey was to create a development framework, the principles of which were then translated into a masterplan. Emphasis was put on place-making and creating a cohesive campus that reflected our heritage as well as being forward-looking. The masterplan sought to support the University’s role as a civic university whilst being engaged with the community. The plan had to make a statement about being ‘Glasgow’ in addition to making the campus porous with new public routes running through the campus and the new civic square.

The porous campus has also been woven into individual building design. Each building is designed by an individual design team who work within a set of design principles. The team adhere to a specific expectation that each building will play a role in the overall masterplan. To support the principle of a porous campus’ each building will have active ground floors which provide visual connections from the outside in, and clear visual connections from within to the outside. Many buildings will have public routes through the ground floors. We are also seeking to make our campus ‘sticky’.

It has been evidenced that students who stay on campus for longer will benefit from higher academic outcomes. The activities in the buildings, combined with longer opening hours of these buildings, will help not only the porous campus but a ‘sticky’ campus too.

Delivering the Vision

We are now moving from planning into delivery, and to minimise disruption to students we have appointed a single delivery partner. This should not only minimise intrusion but also ensure we can create a living laboratory on the construction site. So, what next for the development? Off the back of the investment in the campus, and the emphasis on place-making, we are now engaged with the city regarding how we support inclusive economic growth.

With Glasgow City Council and Scottish Enterprise, we have launched the Glasgow University Innovation District and through this we believe we can create an even wider legacy than first imagined. There is much to do, but I believe at The University of Glasgow we can clearly demonstrate that the built environment can deliver more than just buildings to keep people warm and dry. All of us working in the educational built environment are privileged to be able to make our own contribution to creating great environments which will support both amazing academics and students.


Ann Allen
Chair of A&DS and Director of Estates at the University of Glasgow, will be speaking at The Education Buildings Scotland Conference on 22 November.

“The University will invest £1 billion, deliver 100,000 square metres of new buildings and improve the existing estate – all by 2023.”


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