University of Leicester commissions consultants to preserve one of Britain's iconic buildings

Posted by pt91 at Oct 25, 2011 11:05 AM |
Famous glass roof of Landmark Stirling-Gowan Engineering Building to be refurbished and preserved
University of Leicester commissions consultants to preserve one of Britain's iconic buildings

The Engineering Building, and the glass panels that will be replaced.

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 25 October 2011

Jpeg images of University of Leicester Engineering Building available from

A major project to preserve and enhance one of Britain’s most iconic buildings has been announced today (Tuesday October 25) by the University of Leicester.

The landmark Grade II* Listed Stirling-Gowan Engineering building at the University is one of the symbols of the University and city – and among the most famous examples of the architects’ mould-breaking works.

But the roof and glazed walls of the 1960s building have reached the end their useful life and, in consultation with English Heritage (amongst others), the University of Leicester is investing in the building to extend its functionality for another 50 years.

The project will involve replacing all the glazing panels in the famous sculptural, diamond‐shaped roof, and the vertical walls of the workshops.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor Christine Fyfe, who Chairs the development project steering group, said: “The University of Leicester is extremely proud to have in its midst one of Britain’s most famous buildings which has been used to teach- and inspire- generations of students and researchers.

“The building is renowned internationally and is an architectural icon. In 2009, the Architects’ Journal deemed it the fourth best British University building.

“The University has invested in, and preserved, this national treasure for the past 50 years and the time is now right that we should think about the next 50 years and what needs to be done to preserve it for posterity.”

Set on the edge of the University campus flanking 22 acres of open green space in Victoria Park, the James Stirling and James Gowan designed building was edgy for its time and still draws visitors as well as architectural experts.

Peter Ridley, the University’s Special Projects Manager, added: “Consultant architects were appointed in 2008 to undertake a study of options and to develop a conservation plan. The University has now appointed Berman Guedes Stretton to design the renovation of the engineering department workshops.  Berman Guedes Stretton’s role will be to work with those who have an interest within the heritage community. Arup – façade engineering are part of the BGS team and will  play a major role in developing technical solutions that remain true to the original concept but secure a better working environment and reduce energy requirements.

“Once the work is completed, the building will look the same in terms of external appearance but may have sustainable glazing and other features such as passive ventilations, pv panels and solar thermal panels.

“The work is complex due the handcrafted nature of the roof;  the roof and walls, although ground breaking, used low-cost  materials and low tech construction techniques. The complexity also arises from having to keep the building operational at all times. However, the works will enhance the building and will secure at least another 50 years’ life.”

Alan Berman, founding partner of the practice Berman Guedes Stretton  and author of ‘Jim Stirling and the Red Trilogy‐ 3 radical Buildings’ said:  “Stirling and Gowan’s formal invention and sculptural deployment of materials, still exhilarating today, needs no architectural interference, but only rigorous analysis and inventive technical solutions to improve the building’s performance.

“Over fifty years on, the basic pallet of low cost materials and technology used to achieve the original, radical design has reached the end of its serviceable life. The University therefore now needs to return the building to a good standard of weather tightness, thermal performance and longevity, but understands the need to preserve the unique power of the original design.”

Professor John Fothergill, Head of the Department of Engineering, said: “The Engineering Building was the first post-Modernist building in the UK. The building goes against the grain of concrete 1960s tower blocks – it is designed to excite and to be exciting. The building comprises a tower and adjacent workshops and laboratories, with the famous glass room sitting on triangular struts running at 45 degrees to the face of the building.

“This major work is welcome and important for the future of this building.”



For more information, please contact:

For University of Leicester:

University of Leicester press office on 0116 252 2415;

For Berman Guedes Stretton 

Amanda Reekie,

Stratton & Reekie

tel 020 7287 8456 

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