De Grey Court
York St John University: De Grey Court A £15 million project (£8,937,500 construction cost) with 4800sq m of accommodation for an important site in the centre of York. Close to the City Walls and York Minster at the junction of three historic routes, the brownfield site included an isolated pair of derelict Georgian terraced houses. The University wanted an exciting, contemporary building and recognised that the site’s location offered the opportunity to improve links between the City and the University both physically and metaphorically. The Brief required a range of specialist, executive, corporate, research, and enterprise, general teaching and administration spaces a total of more than 100 rooms. Rivington Street Studio won a ‘Design Concept’ competition and was commissioned at the end of 2005. An intense period of design, discussion and debate involving all stakeholders was followed by a Planning Application in June 2006 and Planning Approval in October. A two stage tender process led to the appointment of Morgan Ashurst as Main Contractor. The Design Team was ‘novated’ to the contractor. A major ‘Value Engineering’ exercise was carried out prior to a start on site in July 2007. The project was completed on time and on budget in October 2008. The design addresses the intricate planning and organisational issues of the site, the complex Brief, the local and historic context, the scale of the recent University buildings, the ‘open’ aspect to the west across a municipal car park, the more domestic scale to the south and the listed buildings. The building enhances the local area and the listed building and fits comfortably and significantly in the City. The design responds to the local context in terms of scale, form and materials. The externals walls are a mixture of local hand made bricks, dark grey panels, fair faced concrete, render and timber. The structure is basically concrete, internal walls are exposed concrete, Fletton brickwork and plastered walls. Along the busy road to the west of the site, the boundary is defined by a high deep curved wall with deep facetted window reveals. The wall is defensive, but it creates a strong, modulated, warm and sinuous boundary to the public areas. From the outside the windows project little of the activity within. From the inside the windows provide a changing snap shot of the activity of the City. The wall frames the views of the Minster entering the City. The wall is ‘anchored’ against concrete stair towers at the north and south and curves dramatically to create an entrance into the new courtyard, an external ‘foyer area’ with the back of the listed building forming its southern boundary. This sequence of spaces creates a new entrance to the Campus on the axis of a main road out of the City. The courtyard allows natural light and ventilation into the heart of the site. It creates an external ‘foyer space’ off the street and it preserves the integrity of the rear façade of the listed buildings. De Grey Street and De Grey Terrace have been pedestrianised and are effectively now part of the Campus. The development is higher at the north side of the site where it is orientated to face the City. There is a deliberate stepping up of the development from the south to ensure that the historic terrace would not be over dominated by the new. The collegiate scale of the streets is helped by overhanging the building onto De Grey Street and by the bridge links which connect the building to the rest of the Campus. The planning of individual rooms and the arrangement of rooms around circulation areas has been crucially influenced by the confined site area, the environmental problems along the western and southern boundaries and the decision to create a ‘courtyard’ to provide natural light and ventilation into the heart of the building. The building has been rated ‘Very Good’ by BREEAM. The building incorporates chilled beams, underfloor heating and passive heating and cooling through the use of the thermal mass of the building linked to automatically opening ventilators.


13 photos and 7 drawings

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