Shortlisted for the NMITE Skylon Campus

Shortlisted for the NMITE Skylon Campus

A team members insight
by Chanel Goodman

 

It was to my delight that a design brief from NMITE was put on the table in front of me at RRA! After having spent the last year as part of the Design Cohort for this new organisation, I was thrilled to be able to propose design ideas for their fantastic new campus in Rotherwas.

NMITE, which stands for New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering, is working towards becoming a New Provider of higher education, aiming to transform engineering education in Britain. Before joining RRA, I was invited to join the Design Cohort- a group of 25 young people brought together to help co-design and co-create NMITE’s unique approach to learning. My role in particular, as the only architecture graduate within the group, involved leading fellow colleagues through the process of designing learning spaces and providing insights on future accommodation.

Four members of the Design Cohort- a group of 25 young people brought together to help co-design and co-create NMITE’s unique approach to learning.
Four members of the Design Cohort – a group of 25 young people brought together to help co-design and co-create NMITE’s unique approach to learning.

 

After finishing a very rewarding year at NMITE last August, I joined the team at RRA Architects to gain further experience. Several months after joining, I was rather intrigued to see that we had received an invitation to participate in a NMITE design competition. Although many local and national firms applied to participate in the competition, we were delighted to be specifically invited to submit a design.

The competition brief was to design a campus in Skylon Park, Rotherwas, consisting of three new Centres for Learning with the aim that the main building would “showcase and be exemplar in the use of timber.” I was delighted to share my knowledge of NMITE with the rest of the RRA team towards, what we hoped, would be the strong and sustainable timber scheme that they were looking for.

 

Photograph of Skylon Park, Rotherwas, with the site to the left of the Shell Store, which is currently under construction.
Skylon Park, Rotherwas, with the site to the left of the Shell Store, which is currently under construction.

 

Our proposals firstly ensured a careful consideration of NMITE’s educational needs, including their collaborative practical approach to learning, strong industry links and emphasis on continuous lifelong learning. We, therefore, understood the importance and relevance of studios for developing ideas and large flexible industrial spaces for prototyping designs. Alongside researching NMITE, we were keen to put into practice our knowledge of timber construction, including large spans made possible by Glulam and cross-laminated timber (CLT), as well as thoughts on how to achieve a sustainable design, which involved making the most of the south-facing site.

 

Proposed layout of the three new Centres for Learning adjacent to the Shell Store
Proposed layout of the three new Centres for Learning adjacent to the Shell Store

 

Much to our delight, after the Christmas break, we returned to receive this news from NMITE “following some really fantastic submissions your score has placed you in our top three and that we would like you to attend an interview.” This interview consisted of a presentation as well as a Q&A session in which we were able to elaborate on our design ideas.

On this occasion, it is unfortunate that we weren’t successfully appointed for the NMITE Rotherwas project. We did, however, receive very positive feedback that our entry “demonstrated a good understanding of NMiTE and education” and was “strong on sustainability.” With this news, we offer our wholehearted congratulations to local firm, and friends, Oakwrights who won the contract with their innovative scheme. We also wish the best of luck to NMITE for progressing with their new Rotherwas campus, that I’m sure will bring plenty more opportunity for young people like myself in Hereford.

For myself, this was a highly rewarding experience, especially as I am just starting out in my architectural career. It is quite a rare opportunity to be able to have such a big input for a design of this scale and ambition, however, RRA did not hesitate to let me get involved. I was encouraged to develop ideas and present them during the interview. So, I thank both RRA and NMITE for this great opportunity and hope that I can get involved in similar opportunities in the future.