King's College Quadrangle Building, London – Projects
- Hall McKnight
- King's College London
The Department of Engineering at King’s College London is growing and needed new space for its diverse teaching, learning and research activities. The conversion in 2022 of a derelict two-storey basement and unloved quadrangle between the Grade I-listed Somerset House and King's Building has created vibrant new accommodation for the department and a social heart for the central London campus.
The design, with architects Hall McKnight, introduced four lightwells along the King’s Building – the largest two measuring 20m by 4m – and an oculus in the centre of the quad. The raised 2.5m-diameter aperture overlooks the central core, which comprises a beautifully crafted exposed concrete spiral staircase and a lift. The publicly accessible quad features a new surface of resin-bound gravel with brass inlays, public seating and new and retained balustrades on both sides.
At the onset of the project the existing basement had visibly suffered from water damage caused by failed waterproofing. Through targeted investigations including thermographic scanning, Elliott Wood quantified the impact of the water ingress on the structural frame. Through detailed back-analysis, we proved the structure’s residual capacity was more than sufficient for the proposed use, which allowed the structure to be kept and adapted for its new life. A new waterproofing system was installed to reinstate protection to the frame.
Where new structure was required, Elliott Wood retained and integrated as much of the existing fabric as was practicable. For example, the new circulation core was designed to be supported off the historic foundations and to resupport severed beams from the retained structure. It also reinstates stability that was lost through the removal of internal walls to open up the space and the creation of new openings in the King’s Building to better integrate access across the quad. For the lightwell inserts, we worked through complex geometry with the architects to integrate the services into the exposed concrete frame.
The result is an architecturally outstanding new higher education space with public benefits, including substantial carbon savings as compared with a previous development proposal which looked to demolish the existing frame. The benefits of retention on an operational urban campus go beyond carbon. Less demolition meant less dust and better air quality, while reduced vehicle movements created less congestion. Most importantly, minimised disruption allowed the department to continue in its mission of “helping to make a better world and to improve people’s lives.”