Bay windows and Belgian bricks; The inside story of Chadwick Hall

Considered accommodation solutions

As London’s campus university, one aspect of student life that Roehampton is eager to get spot on is the provision of onsite accommodation. Thanks to its legacy of four colleges, each with generous grounds, we can proudly assert that all new students will be offered a place in halls.

Stairwell looking down

With growing student populations across the country, the need for such provision has sparked a student halls construction race. In turn this has led to dramatically different interpretations of what are deemed appropriate designs and spaces for students to call their term-time home. Unfortunately, new student blocks are as often found in the unwanted contest of the Carbuncle Cup (award for the most poorly considered new architectural design), as they are challenging at the opposite end of the spectrum in the Sterling Prize for architectural excellence. Is the inevitable result a thrust to maximise the number of units and minimise the cost of cladding?

During the University’s contribution to the 2018 Open House London festival, there was an opportunity to hear some compelling responses to these issues. This came directly from the architectural team who spoke about the complex balance of design, budgetary, spatial and planning factors at play in realising the development of one of the most recent additions to the University’s accommodation portfolio, Chadwick Hall. The message coming through was that among these diverse considerations, the worth of how students might study and dwell within the halls retained its place and prominence.

Living up to expectations

The delivery of a building, or suite of buildings and a reworked landscape as is the case around Chadwick Hall, is one aspect. But the realisation of how a student population lives in and around this new space is another. With three years of intake having already passed through, how have the student residents found the experience of living in Chadwick? To get a grasp on this we turned to Dan, a flat rep in his third year situated on the Chadwick site. Roehampton is one of very few universities in the UK to appoint and provide such flat reps, who provide a vital liaison between students, the RSU, the colleges and Accommodation Services. Helping freshers through their first year at Roehampton, each rep at Chadwick ensures that their flat of between five and nine other students runs smoothly. Dan stressed that his role is not, as is sometimes mistaken at first, to police his flatmates. Rather, it is to pass on his familiarity with the layout and services of the campus, and to reassure should any of the general fluctuations of student life arise.

Especially for those moving into London for the first time, the issue of safety and security is often paramount for all concerned. On this front, Dan explained that the firm consensus he found was that Chadwick provided a positive, calm and secure environment, that is still only minutes away from the vibrant scene of the main university campus. The quality and durability of fittings all around the buildings were also recognised and appreciated, notably allowing the communal kitchen areas to become popular social spaces for flatmates and friends alike. With regards to the bedrooms, substantial windows, wide desk spaces and high ceilings have been particularly valued, ensuring a light and airy feel is brought to these individual spaces. Although still new, Dan describes how Chadwick fits in so well to the environment that it carries a sort of timeless feel. That connectivity is also made with the surrounding gardens, which provide not only an aesthetic value, but are regularly utilised as an additional space to unwind, relax and, when the weather is accommodating, enjoy a barbeque!

The real proof of the pudding however, is when you hear that more than half of the current flat reps, having lived in other accommodations in previous years, chose to come back to Chadwick when continuing their studies.

The ‘people’s vote’ for the RIBA Sterling Prize is now open. You can vote for Chadwick to win here.

Also, you can watch this fantastic BBC piece on Chadwick including the RSU President Chuchu Nwagu.

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