SAPCA Awards 2020: Active Campus project at Loughborough University earns David Morley Architects place among finalists
David Morley Architects (DMA) has been named as a finalist for this year’s SAPCA Awards for its work on the new student village at Loughborough University. The entire campus has been designed with physical activity in mind and links up with the university’s sports facilities and the innovative Elite Athlete Centre – also designed by DMA.
Loughborough University is renowned for the contribution it makes to sport and physical activity. The university’s reputation for sporting excellence is built on a long and successful heritage in the field.
Today, Loughborough is ranked first in the world for sports-related subjects and plays host to many of the highest performing student athletes and teams in the country. It has an ethos that every student should have the opportunity to play sport, regardless of their ability or current activity level.
This in mind, the university was very keen to develop its new student village in a way that would encourage all of its students to be more active through the design of their surroundings.
Located in the heart of the university campus, the new student village provides more than 600 student bedrooms. The accommodation is spread across the halls of residence and the innovative Elite Athlete Centre (EAC), used by high-performance athletes.
For those at the pinnacle of sport, Loughborough offers plenty of elite facilities. The university recognised, however, that outside of its world-class sports and fitness facilities, a broad and inclusive offer was needed to encourage all students to introduce more physical activity into their daily lives.
Working with DMA and landscape architects Colour, this led to the realisation that creating places to be active between formal sport facilities would create more opportunities to be active both for those already engaged in sport and for those students who are less active.
An extensive stakeholder engagement consultation was then completed, as part of the process of developing the design. The overarching aim was to optimise the opportunity for students themselves to become involved and to contribute – and for them to help create an environment that would encourage and assist them to be active.
As a result, the aim was to alter the physical, technological and environmental features on-site. By doing so, the designs look to create an active setting – encouraging wellbeing and fitness engagement – while linking the new hall with the wider campus and facilities. The design also focuses on positively promoting and responding to the existing vegetation, landscape and ecology on campus.
During the project, DMA – working in close partnership with Colour – came up with a number of innovative design solutions to get students active. These were centred on maximising the potential for activity within the external environment. The aim was to provide a network of open spaces with walkable and connected routes, enhancing physical and mental wellbeing and creating a well-maintained, natural landscape and environment.
The innovative solutions to get students more active included turning a service road into a “running track” by installing red tarmac and creating the feel of a race track. The lanes of the track merge, cross over and split, in order to encourage fun – rather than competitive action.
Elsewhere, “giant steps” were created – instead of traditional steps – with the aim of providing an informal meeting place and an infrastructure suited for both formal and informal fitness activities. There is also an outdoor bouldering wall – which makes use of a blank retaining wall – with coloured holds for routes of varying challenge.
Other installations include exercise stations and stretching locations – suitable for informal uses or for programmed activities – and ground-set trampolines, placed in a zone linking an “active courtyard” with the track. This concept was derived directly from student feedback which preferred ‘big kids play equipment’ to a serious gym.
Elsewhere, there are pedal-powered USB charging points, a rebound wall and irregular shaped synthetic sports surfaces to encourage participation in inclusive, informal and diverse activities – such as pop-up badminton, volleyball, and frisbee.
According to Andy Mytom, partner at DMA, the design has, at its heart, a pragmatic yet revolutionary approach to creating active spaces.
“We call the approach ‘see it, do it’,” Mytom says.
“Environmental psychologists will tell you that, if you want someone to do something, you have to put it in their way.
“As well as the active landscaping and all the innovative areas, this included designing the student hall kitchens so that students have a view outside. This was because they are likely to join in the activities if they see their friends being active.”
The designs have resulted in the Loughborough Student Village becoming the first Active Campus anywhere in the UK. Throughout the site, facilities are provided that offer outstanding recreation and fitness opportunities that are specifically designed to support learning, health and wellbeing in an exceptional environment.
The university now intends to monitor and evaluate the positive impacts of the active landscape and to assess the effectiveness of the Active Campus. The findings will then help it formulate an evidence base to support future interventions.
“The ‘Active Landscape’ is an initiative driven by Loughborough University to create an inclusive campus where activity is accessible to everyone and stimulates participation,” Mytom says.
“The initiative is strongly supported by Sport England and UK Sport who have been consulted in the development of the concept.”
Mytom adds that the project’s success is partly due to the way Loughborough University bought into the approach.
“We convinced the university of the concept, Mytom says. “They understood and saw the value of it.
“The university invested around £1.25m to follow through the ‘see it, do it’ theme, both within the outdoor areas and the buildings themselves.”
Peter Owens, managing director of Colour, adds that the project’s success can also be accredited to the collaborative manner in which it was completed – with wide support from the university all the way through to the contractor and the supply chain.
“We were very fortunate to have a contractor who entirely bought into it all,” Owens said.
“For them, it wasn’t just a ‘nice to have’ that could get value-engineered out, they hung onto it and they did things for us that they didn’t have to do.”
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