New LICA building less than appreciated by students

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Students say the new building is “impressive” but “disappointing”. — © Lancaster University

Lancaster University has unveiled its new environmentally friendly building, made to house Lancaster’s Institute for the Contemporary Arts (LICA), to a mixed reception.

The £10m development is the first Higher Education building in the country to be classed as ‘outstanding’ by the British Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM). The building is constructed from environmentally friendly timber and includes an energy efficient rain harvesting tank, amongst other measures.

The site will contain the Art, Music, Design and Theatre Studies departments which were previously spread around various areas of the University. In addition, the building will support elements of the professional arts activity of Live at LICA – a union of the Peter Scott Gallery, the Nuffield Theatre and the International Concert Series – as well as the research group ImaginationLancaster.

Director of Live at LICA, Matt Fenton, says: “My first impression is that the building is stunning and has lots of potential. We’re very excited about the new performance spaces.”

The 5,000 square metre building is situated at the north end of the campus next to County College and comprises of open plan office areas, interlinked social spaces and private rooms that students can book to use. The event space is also complete with a sound-absorbing ceiling.

However, some students in the Music department argue that though the building is attractive it is not practical. They complain that the appearance has been prioritised over the function as the spaces are small and offer poor sound quality.

“The new building is visually impressive and the main foyer is certainly a pleasant space, but the content is somewhat disappointing, even if it is aesthetically superior to what preceded it,” argued one third year music student who wished to remain anonymous. “Whilst the spaces are well designed visually, there appears to be a lack of design for purpose – especially when acoustics are taken into account. The place is let down by its fit and finish as well as an overriding sense of pointlessness when compared to more urgent departmental needs concerning staffing and postgraduate funding.”

It has also been rumoured that the development had some problems in its final stages of completion, including toilets that flushed using dirty roof-water and a pond that drained itself.

Director of Facilities, Mark Swindlehurst said: “There are always minor issues with major construction projects when in the final stages of completion. We will look into the comments that have been made to SCAN and collectively determine if anything needs to be done about them. The design of the spaces were subject to a comprehensive briefing and approval by colleagues in LICA and feedback from all staff to date has been one of overwhelming support and praise for the building.”

He went on to say: “The toilets use an environmentally friendly system that involved harvesting rain water which is why it may appear discoloured. This was explained in the building user guide but we take your comments on board and will add signage to explain the process and avoid any future confusion.

“The pond uses a sustainable urban drainage system which releases surface water at consistent rates and this was being tested over the past couple of weeks which is why it may have been empty at some points.”

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