Text description provided by the architects. Through UCL’s masterplan, Levitt Bernstein identified an opportunity to create a new courtyard terrace above an existing service yard. As well as providing a high-quality outdoor space for staff and students, this opens up a new east-west route to improve accessibility across campus. The existing service yard had become unsightly but was overlooked by a number of important university buildings. The challenge was to connect these disparate elements with one cohesive design – all the more problematic considering the Wilkins Building is Grade I listed.
Quite apart from the creation of the new terrace, there were a number of practical issues to be solved: providing good access and maintaining services to the surrounding buildings. Levitt Bernstein enclosed the service yard as an undercroft, allowing the external space above to form a new flexible terrace, with a shadow gap to minimize the impact on the historic building fabric. The terrace’s lower level serves the new Lower Refectory, which is linked by a new lift and grand staircase.
A new ‘fourth façade’ in Portland stone completes the composition, using London stock brick to create a harmonious relationship with surrounding buildings. Designed to classical proportions, this also conceals the myriad services required for the Lower Refectory. Other building elevations were also restored and decluttered. New classical planting, including large pleached trees and climbing wisteria, complements and provides a softening frontage to the built form. A number of edible species also allow staff and students to further interact with the new space, be it through flowers, herbs or fruit trees.
A steel frame superstructure and composite concrete slab form the basis of the construction, with a mixture of load bearing and hung Portland stone cladding used for the terrace and fourth façade. Professor Susan Collins, Director, Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, said: “The success of this magical, elegant new space, conjured out of what was an old physics yard, is that it manages to feel new, contemporary and uplifting whilst being so sympathetic to the original architecture that it feels as though it’s always been here.”