Precinct Centre

This was the only built edifice of the Wilson Womersley driven Education Precinct Plan (MEP) designed by the partnership. It was a somewhat misguided and confused attempt to fuse ideology with reality. The mixed-use precinct-in-the-sky was intended to be the lively hub of the University development as it expanded during the late 1960s and early 1970s, to contain housing, shops, a chaplaincy, Institute for the Deaf, a branch library and health centre. The red brick mass was a rather ill considered response to the materials matrix prepared as part of the MEP study. Lewis Womersley himself acknowledged the failings of the Precinct Centre insofar as many of the assumptions they had made concerning connectivity, adjacent development, density, that were dependent on third parties were not built as anticipated. The result was an unsettling placeless space that always felt as if occupancy rates were teetering on the edge of viability. The bridge that once joined the centre to the RNCM was removed as the latter expanded in the late C20 and a new bridge built as part of the Business School development (Orms) in 1999 is accessible, but does not facilitate access between the two! The Precinct Centre is book-ended by buildings that look as if they are by the same architect, but are in fact by Cruickshank & Seward; the Business School and St. Peter’s House Chaplaincy. The reason for the apparent seamless marriage is that Cruickshank & Seward also had to reface the precinct centre with brick skips on metal angles following the loss of the original tiles. The triumph of Wilson Womersley was undoubtedly their masterplanning; the architecture here, well received at the time because of the analytical approach to integrated urban environments, now looks tired and feels detached. It was vacated in 2015 and construction began on a major refurbishment in 2016.