- Project Partner: Ivan Harbour, Tracy Meller
- Project Lead: Lorna Edwards, Jack Newton
- Architect: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners RSHP
- Client: London School of Economics and Political Science LSE
- Quantity Surveyor / Cost Consultant: Deloitte
- Approved Building Inspector: Meridian Consult Ltd
- City: London
- Country: United Kingdom
Text description provided by the architects. The LSE Centre Building project was won by a RIBA competition in 2013 and presented Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) with an opportunity to design a building to reflect the values of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). The project has delivered its brief by exceeding the BREEAM Excellent target to achieve “Outstanding”, delivering innovative and inspirational teaching spaces including a new prototype ‘LSE style’ lecture theatre, and providing departmental space to encourage collaboration and dialogue between departments.
RSHP’s proposals also created a substantial new public square to improve wayfinding and connectivity by offering a much-needed focal point at the heart of the LSE campus. Teaching facilities and informal student learning and breakout spaces are accommodated between the lower ground and second floor, connected by a single sculptural “academic stair” that rises in a three-storey atrium terminating at a landscaped student terrace.
Above the second floor, academic departments are housed on flexible floor plates that provide a mixture of interchangeable cellular and open-plan offices. These are connected by a meandering “collaborative” stair, in a series of double-height voids designed to encourage interdepartmental collaboration and dialogue and which are expressed on the façade. To accommodate the public square the buildings massing needed to maximize the height constraints of the site – by going higher than the brief had assumed, comprising of 6 and 13-storey interlocking volumes which relate to the height of the neighbouring buildings.
The façade of each respond to the existing fabric, changing in grain and materiality to recognise the different spatial qualities of Houghton Street and the setting of the new square. The restricted nature of the site at the heart of a pedestrian campus made construction logistically complex. In response prefabrication was used wherever possible, evident in the steel superstructure and precast hollow core planks that form the structural frame.
Composed of standard section columns and beams bolted together on site, expressed internally to give it a distinct appearance. The building’s external bracing on the northern and southern facades provides lateral stability to the building and is expressed as a distinctive, bold, and yet simple cross brace that is structurally efficient and economical in that it minimises the number of fabricated elements. The cross braces sit outside the thermal envelope of the building to maximise internal flexibility, therefore all structural connections back to the floor plates are thermally broken.
Embracing sustainable design principles from the offset the BREEAM Outstanding (88.9%) building provides good daylighting throughout and natural ventilation to over 70% of the interior. The building’s embodied carbon was reduced through design and material selection by 30%, it harvests rainwater and utilises a biomass boiler and PVs. The internal workspaces are designed to enhance wellbeing with 4 terraces on levels 2,6, 11, 12 for staff and students providing both recreational space and increased biodiversity. Construction began in January 2017 and was completed in May 2019 opening formally to students in September 2019.