University Square Preston

Project: UCLan Student Centre & University Square
Location: Preston
Lead Architects: Hawkins\Brown

Landscape Architects: Plincke

Hard Landscaping Materials: Hardscape / IP Surfaces

Contractors: Bowmer + Kirkland

Artwork Budget: £100,000

Site Programme: 36 months
Service: Public Art Sub-Consultant
Artists (3 of 4): Halima Cassell MBE (Artist & Sculptor)

Awards: NW Regional Construction Awards 2021: ‘Lancashire Sub-Regional Project of the Year Award’

Schüco Excellence Awards 2021 : Education and Health with the project’s structural and technical prowess applauded

RIBA North West Award 2023 : The jury the new Student Centre and University Square redefined the interaction between the University and city of Preston – with an impressive approach to sustainability being a BREEAM Excellent and EPC A-rated.

Commissioned by University of Central Lancashire (Uclan) to work as a sub-consultant under lead architects Hawkins\Brown, from 2017 Atoll helped develop an integrated public art strategy linked to the £60m Student Centre and University Square being built in Preston as part of the UCLan Masterplan – all completed in 2021 despite Covid-19. See a video timelapse of the entire construction process here.

A number of artist commissions evolved out of that strategy following the earlier Testbed commission. The residencies developed in consultation with a public art steering group involving various stakeholders.

As part of these commissions, Preston-trained artist and sculptor Halima Cassell (who in 2021 was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours) was commissioned to design a series of applied ‘Industrial Art’ works based on the her long interest in 3D tiling repeat patterns. Integrated directly into the actual design fabric of the public realm, these works now form decorative treatements to granite on both retaining walls and integrated seating sited around the university’s new square. These beautiful new pieces were created collaboratively, with the artist working through Atoll’s assistance on a series of CAD-based setting-out drawings, with client Uclan; lead architects Hawkins\Brown; landscape architects Plincke; landscape materials and integrated artwork fabricators Hardscape / IP Surfaces; and Main Contractors Bowmer + Kirkland.

A series of ‘2-Part Tessellation’ repeats were created in a range of hard granite colours in both intricate 3D tiling as well as being directly carved into solid blocks. The artworks are all 3D-cut using Hardscape / IP Surfaces water jets controlled digitally by something called ‘CNC’ (computer numerical control).

Interviewed for the Uclan website in December 2021, Halima confirmed that: “My wall frieze focuses on arrows that catch the eye of passers-by and creates a weaving effect through the individual modules. Through this piece of work, I wanted to remember Lancashire’s weaving heritage and reflect on University forming a key element of the tapestry of life.

“In the designing of the book ends for the seats, the play with the natural and artificial light was important to me. I designed them to symphonize with the casted shadows to create a dramatic and ever-changing effect throughout the day and night.”

In November 2021 at the 15th annual North West Regional Construction Awards, Uclan Student Centre and University Square won the ‘Lancashire Sub-Regional Project of the Year Award’, and “The judges particularly liked the use of materials that reduced embodied carbon whilst still fully meeting client brief.”

A feature on the scheme as well a detail on Halima Cassell’s current new collaboration with Hardscape / IP Surfaces (that has been generated by the project) can be seen here.

Categories: Public Art

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