Developed in collaboration between John Robertson Architects, Grant Associates, Atelier Ten, and AKT II, the concept behind the project focuses on creating a contemporary translation of traditional ‘salon of the enlightenment’ gatherings.

With the ‘salon’ concept in mind, the building has been designed by UNStudio to provide opportunities for conversation and the exchange of ideas. By blurring the hierarchical boundary between faculty members and students, the architecture aims to stimulate interaction and collaboration.

Commenting on the project, Ben Van Berkel of UNStudio notes, ‘salons provided fascinating opportunities for debate for intellectuals from all walks of life. Artists, scientists, philosophers, politicians; they all gathered to debate the concerns of their time, cross-fertilizing and mutually influencing each other’s ideas along the way. Facilitating such exchange of ideas forms the core of the design for the new business school.’

The extension, which will cover an area of 40,192 ft2 (3,734 m2), is focused around a social core called ‘the fireplace’. The fireplace is designed as a central gathering space for knowledge sharing and links all the other elements of the new intervention together. In addition to forming a conceptual core, this design element also functions to connect the new business school with the existing buildings via an elevated circulation ring. The multi-level ‘stage’ offers transperancy through the heart of the building, while also providing a place for campus events.

The selected scheme proposes a fluid geometric composition of soft, island-like volumes that are connected by circulation pathways. Rather than creating dead-end experiences, these pathways are always anchored to daylight and are designed to become an extension of the internal functions themselves. The campus will also benefit from a covered courtyard and internal garden that aim to bring an element of nature to the site, blurring the line between indoor and outdoor.

The exterior of the new building has been designed to relate to the existing architecture of the city of epsom and the strong craftsmanship heritage of the university. With the use of natural, carbon neutral materials, the proposed façade will provide a new identity while also connecting to the past.

The project also embodies ideas of environmental design by embracing principles such as lean design through multifunctionality, flexibility and adaptability and future-proofed energy and water infrastructure. Additionally, most materials used in the building are sourced from carbon neutral, renewable resources. Flexible and reusable materials assure the delivery of a circular building that can easily be adapted to future changes and requirements.

Originally published on designboom, 11 July 2019.