University runs competition to redesign the Spine


In conjunction with Lancaster University’s 50th Anniversary celebrations, the University is running an urban design competition seeking teams led by architects or landscape architects to redesign the Spine, the main walkway through campus.

The first stage of the competition involves teams expressing interest in undertaking the project, which is communicated to the University through its usual process of seeking outside contractors to undertake work. The University’s Tender Management portal states that they are seeking “landscape architects or architect-led teams with innovative design skills for the refurbishment and remodelling of the University’s central walkway known as the Spine, on the University campus,” but more details on the project’s specifications will at this point be made available to applicants. These expressions of interest are due by Monday Week 4, at which point applicants will be invited to present dialogue, concepts and possible design approaches to a jury panel. From the group of applicants, a shortlist of five teams will be selected to further develop their concepts in response to the University’s outline brief, and one team will be chosen to ultimately undertake the project, which according to the University’s Tender Management portal is due to begin in early November 2014, and is due to be completed by the start of November 2016.

The competition was first announced by the Royal Insitute of British Architects (RIBA), an organisation which seeks to champion better buildings, communities and environment through architecture and the activities of its members. RIBA provides training, standards, support and recognition for professional architects in the United Kingdom. The competition to redesign the Spine is run by RIBA Competitions, the institute’s unit which seeks to deliver exciting projects and buildings, stimulate creativity, quality and innovation and generate a range of options, creating choice for clients.

Explaining some of the aims of the competition, Lancaster University’s Director of Facilities, Mark Swindlehurst said: “We are looking for an innovative team capable of rejuvenating the Spine and re-presenting it as a space that knits together an array of different buildings, external landscapes and addresses various building frontages and entrances.”

Swindlehurst also expressed the importance of the Spine to the sense of community at the University. He said: “We want to create an inspirational space where people learn, work and live as well as go about their daily business. The University fosters a sense of community cohesion and The Spine should facilitate this.”

The Spine has been an integral part of the University’s architecture since its opening in 1964, and is familiar to everyone who spends time on campus, stretching over a kilometre and providing a link between the majority of the most-visited buildings at the University site. It was originally designed to allow pedestrians to walk the whole length of the campus whilst providing a degree of protection from the weather. Portions of the walkway were left open to the sky to let in the natural light, avoiding the need to provide under canopy lighting in parts. The original 1960s architects and master planners of the University designed The Spine to follow the natural gradient of the land in Lancaster’s rural setting. The University now wishes to renew the design of the central pathway 50 years from its opening.

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