We are very lucky in Nottingham to have two first class universities – both very different in terms of their campuses. Nottingham Trent is a city centre university and so visiting people have all the usual city centre facilities. Nottingham University has a wonderful landscaped campus, on the edge of the city. Consequently it has the potential for conferences, but limited local hotel accommodation – until now as a £20m eco-friendly hotel – The Orchard – has opened its doors right next door to the conference centre in the centre of the University main campus.
Designed to complement the university-owned De Vere Venues East Midlands Conference Centre, The Orchard features technology to minimise carbon emissions, including a green roof, solar panels and energy-efficient lighting, heating and ventilation systems.
The 202-bedroom hotel also features a roof garden, brasserie and gym. It is also a quite stunning piece of design and is something the University can be justifiably proud of. It is just a shame that we don’t have such ‘interesting’ buildings being built in the city centre.
A challenge for our local architects and developers perhaps?
Last week I had a day out in Oxford, my stepdaughter Star had to deliver her portfolio to the University, so I had time to have a good look and take some photos in the town centre. One of the things that I was keen to see was the Ashmolean museum which had a new building grafted onto it a couple of years ago – it particularly interested me because it can’t really be seen externally, it is all about the internal space.
The museum itself is apparently the oldest in the UK, having been founded in 1683 to display the Universities collections. Consequently the main frontage is very ‘classical’ in design, so any addition was always going to be somewhat ‘controversial’!
As is the ‘norm’ with this style of ‘add on’ it is very obviously new – but it does in my view work very well as a space and has some nice features. In particular the ‘cascade’ staircase and its associated glass walkways.
I believe that if a building has a ‘wow’ factor but then does what it was designed for well, but without you really realising, it is a success. The Ashmolean is such a building. The gallery space is good, but the feature areas have a real presence and make you feel good.
It is well worth a look if you are in Oxford.
If you have travelled close to the Nottingham Railway station recently you will not have failed to see the new car park that forms a part of the redevelopment of the station. It is not small, that much can be agreed upon – let’s face it car parks tend to be large solid block of concrete due to their nature. But I believe that this is turning into quite an attractive one!
All too often car parks are ‘add ons’ to a scheme – something to serve a purpose but built to a cost – normally the lowest possible! I think the new railway car park is beginning to look very attractive – the coloured panels being applied to the frame not only break up the outline but are also giving it a highly distinctive and modern look. I agree with this approach when adding to an existing site – why try to blend in when you can make a statement – and this structure certainly does that!
Unfortunately not everyone agrees! The Nottingham Civic Society have announced that they consider it an eyesore and that it doesn’t ‘sit well’ with the surrounding Victorian architecture. Now I will not suggest that architects should be allowed to build modern designs in highly sensitive locations as they wish – but the pyramid in Paris at the Louvre is a classic example of old and new sitting well together (although our future King does not agree).
Nottingham station is a working facility – not a museum – so it should evolve accordingly. That is what is happening and if it adds a bit of fire into the city’s architecture that is good! Nottingham needs more of this – not less!