£60m Preston city gateway design is unveiled

Hawkins Brown's design concept for the new UCLan  student support centre
Hawkins Brown's design concept for the new UCLan student support centre
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THE design for the gateway to a £200million development planned by university bosses has been unveiled.

Preston’s University of Central Lancashire ran a competition to find an architect to create a new £60m civic square and student support centre as part of its major redevelopment plans to create a “more unified” campus.

After major interest from across the continent, a shortlist of designs went on show and members of the public were invited to share their views.

Here’s how our readers voted last month

Design concepts presented by Hawkins\Brown, have now been selected by judges from the final seven in the competition, run in conjunction with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

The firm, which has offices in Manchester and London, was one of 41 from across Europe to enter designs for the new civic square and student support centre, two of the main components of UCLan’s Masterplan.

The winning design received the most positive comments from the public.

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It was created using the idea of ‘threads’ to connect the university and the city, drawing on Preston’s textile heritage and its future in aerospace electronics, UCLan said.

Hawkins\Brown will now produce a final proposal, taking into account feedback from the judges, UCLan staff and students as well as the public.

UCLan vice chancellor Professor Mike Thomas said: “This is a landmark project which will enhance Preston’s landscape, and all the shortlisted architects provided a skilled and unique response.

“We’d like to thank everyone who submitted feedback as the comments helped shape the judging panel’s final decision, and it was Hawkins\Brown’s winning design concept which drew the most positive attention.”

David Taylor, chairman of the University Board, said: “The standard of submissions was very high.”

He added: “Hawkins\Brown demonstrated a true understanding of what students want, and of the city of Preston with the concept design referencing our industrial heritage.”

Michael Ahern, chief operating officer of UCLan, added: “These are exciting times for the university and the city and there is huge potential in the Hawkins\Brown scheme, which is just the start of the development process.”

Roger Hawkins from Hawkins\Brown, said: “We are tremendously excited about getting started on this project, testing some of our initial design ideas with students and staff from UCLan and with people from the City of Preston.”

The project is due for completion in 2019.

Work has already started on preparing the groundwork for the redevelopment with the demolition of the Fylde Building last summer and earlier this month the university appointed Manchester-based BAM Construction as to build it’s proposed state-of the art £30m engineering innovation centre in the heart of the city.

The choice of architects has already won the backing of local civic and business leaders.

Sana Iqbal, president of the UCLan Students’ Union, said: “The concept design looks great.

“We are very excited to work with the University and Hawkins\Brown to ensure that the new Student Support building and square meets the needs of students.”

John Whiles, the RIBA Adviser, said: “The variety of the seven finalist responses to the visionary brief were an excellent challenge to assumptions and expectations. It was only after much debate that the panel eventually felt that the low, transparent, student-focussed, pavilion approach proposed by Hawkins\Brown best captured the spirit of an interactive, catalytic, gateway building sought by the University of Central Lancashire.”

Preston City Council leader Councillor Peter Rankin said: “I am very excited by the whole Masterplan from the University. The new student support centre and civic square will definitely enhance the city centre. Everything is coming together to make Preston an even better place to live, study, work and visit.”

County Councillor John Fillis, Lancashire’s cabinet member for highways and transport, added: “This is a very exciting project and will create an important new public space for students as well as the people of Preston and the surrounding area to enjoy.

“I’m proud that we will play our part in making sure that the highway design works for everyone who uses it.

“ These developments are two more great additions to the city, as investment from the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal helps to regenerate the areas around the bus station and Markets Quarter, and a host of other improvements take place, encouraging more people into the city centre, creating new jobs, benefitting local businesses and bring about economic growth.”

Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce , said: “The new square and student support centre, along with the other projects associated with UCLan’s Masterplan, will have a real positive economic and social impact on the city. This is a main gateway into Preston and its redevelopment will play a key role in the city’s continuing success.”

Businesswoman Margaret Mason, who has run a thriving florists from Friargate for 55 years, said: “These plans look very exciting. I particularly love the overall feel of space, light and openness.

“There are plenty of trees incorporated into the design concept which I think is important and I can see the square itself being used for a whole range of activities that will attract people into this part of the city with knock-on benefits for local businesses.”