University of York – Management School

From labs to learning

Church Lane, York
Learning, Re-use
Church Lane, York
Learning, Re-use
University of York
Completed 2021

01 Introduction

An extensive £13million internal reorganisation and refurbishment of a former laboratory complex. The new high specification facility is now home to the York Management School and Department of Social Policy and Social Work and includes seminar/lecture and breakout spaces (including a café) alongside departmental offices & flexible ‘Agile’ workspace for university staff.

The former pharmaceutical building has been extensively remodelled with a complex labyrinth of cellular internal spaces opened up to create large internal volumes which utilise skylights to bring natural daylight into the deep building plan.

Entrance space opened up to provide clear access into the building
Central corridor with breakout space created
New board room facilities
Student services hub created
Double height space utilised for agile working environment
A variety of spaces provided for lone and collaborative working

02 Re-use

Retaining and refreshing existing elements

The reuse of the existing building’s shell significantly reduced the carbon footprint associated with demolishing and creating a new build. Skylights include opening panels to provide natural ventilation from double and triple height spaces, assisted by the natural buoyancy of warm air and opening windows, for a mixed mode summer ventilation strategy. The teaching rooms which are susceptible to higher internal gains (due to higher occupancy) are located on the north elevation where they are not subject to unwanted solar gains.


Existing lecture theatre refreshed

03 Approach to Design

The importance of legibility in a large complex building

The design approach establishes a hierarchy of spaces, with a public spine running through the centre of the building, and private, cellar office and study spaces arranged around the perimeter. The interface between these is moderated by departmental reception areas, breakout spaces, and open plan spaces for informal or unprogrammed working, and enjoying the benefit of borrowed natural daylight. This approach also creates an obvious legibility and aids wayfinding in a large, mixed occupancy building. DLA undertook interior design including the design of interior wall graphics, which further enhanced the visual supremacy of this main route, leading visitors through the building via a series of waypoints from where onward journey’s are sign posted.

The materials palette employed is rich and diverse, with natural timber supplemented with a range of infill materials including biophilic moss green walls. These panels provide a consistent, high-quality aesthetic throughout the scheme, as well as serving as acoustic absorption to address reverberation in the larger volumetric spaces.

04 Passionate about delivery

Overcoming the challenges associated with working on an existing building

The project’s challenges arose from the unknown condition of the existing building, a former laboratory potentially contaminated with chemical, biological, and radioactive compounds. The requirement for specialist removal and decontamination of traps and filters limited access initially. Major discrepancies between hand-drawn records and the actual structure required a flexible approach, adapting original proposals to fit spatial and structural constraints as they became clear.

The construction drawings evolved as part of this iterative process, prioritising the overarching design language, typical room types, and plan legibility. Adjustments, like moving a lift core to avoid obstructions, were accepted if they did not compromise key design elements.


05 Landscape Development

Opening up the visibility of the building

The building now sits within a newly landscaped setting which has been carefully considered to open up views of and access to the building whilst retaining existing mature trees. By significantly reducing the number of existing car parking spaces in favour of extensive new cycle parking and EV charging bays, we have been able to provide new soft landscaping areas which improve the ecological value of the site whilst also creating outdoor seating and amenity spaces for group gatherings and external working.

Project team

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