Tag Archives: University

Charles Wilson Building – Leicester

Charles Wilson Building – Leicester
Construction: 1966
Architect: Denys Lasdun

As you reach the top of Leicester University’s drive the Charles Wilson Building is the first thing that greets you. It’s a great feature building and a foretaste of some of the wonderful modernism to be found around the campus.

One of the many things to love about this structure is the fact that it looks like a happy robot. The bulk of the building is raised on thin stilts giving a shaded portico and allowing a fully glazed wall on the ground floor. The horizontal is emphasised on the main body with thick concrete banding, but this is broken up on the front by the continuation of the stilts and on the sides by service towers with vertical strips of windows. The ‘head’ features an interesting cluster of towers and a heavy looking external staircase. The concrete is a warm sandy colour, which blends well with the yellow bricks that are used sparingly on the ground floor.



Leicester University Engineering Building – Leicester

Leicester University Engineering Building – Leicester
Construction: 1959-1963
Architects: James Stirling & James Gowan

Unusually for a building featured on this site, the exterior of Stirling and Gowan’s construction is primarily covered in red brick and tile. While the materials may be traditional, the structure is anything but. There are plenty of interesting features – two lecture theatres project outwards from the main body, a staircase spirals up inside a glass tube, and at the rear ribbon windows angle outwards from the top in a way similar to those of the nearby Attenborough Tower. Rising above all this, the main tower is an expanse of steel and glass. The building, which is still well used, was grade II* listed in 1993.

Geography and Planning Building – Sheffield

Geography and Planning Building – Sheffield

Architect – William Whitfield & Partners

Construction – 1970-71

I couldn’t find any information on this building when I originally posted this. But I was contacted by an academic from the Geography department who gave me the dates of construction and the architect. He also sent me some of the original plans and drawings for the building, along with some great photos taken shortly after completion. Apparently it is a “challenging” building to work in, but it can’t be denied that it has character.

The building itself is a cluster of hexagonal structures of various heights attached to a rectangular block. The concrete structure frames sections of brick in a style similar to the Park Hill estate flats. In addition to the use of hexagons, the building has some interesting little features that mark it out, such as the vertical windows which sandwich the concrete piers on the upper floors and the diagrid detailing on the portico ceiling. A small green separates this building from the Arts Tower and, as you can see from the first photo, when the sun is out young scholars recline and take in the views of the surrounding first class modernist architecture.

Arts Tower – Sheffield

Arts Tower – Sheffield

Construction: 1961-1966

Architects: Gollins, Melvin, Ward & Partners

While the raw concrete aesthetic of brutalism was the accepted style for British public sector building in the 60s and 70s, the steel and glass style inspired by the work of German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was popular in the private sector. Somewhat unusually for an educational building of the time, Sheffield Arts Tower clearly displays a Miesean influence, bearing more than a passing resemblance to van der Rohe’s 1958 Seagram Building in New York. The brutalist influence is there however, as the grey blue steel and glass structure sits atop 16 raw concrete piers and a raised concrete walkway links the mezzanine level to the Western Bank library next door.

The building also contains one of the last remaining paternoster lifts in the UK, which is great fun.