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Sparking interest in architecture

8th August 2016

In late July, industry professionals from some of the UK’s leading construction and architecture firms discovered how we are enhancing the student experience through our new £33m Spark building.   

With talks from architects Scott Brownrigg and engineers Scott White and Hookins, industry insight event ‘Transforming Education through the Built Environment’ explored the story behind the Spark.

Designed to provide an informal, flexible learning environment, the Spark can also cater for a variety of other uses. Ian Pratt, Director at Scott Brownrigg, says: “When we designed the building for Solent we were looking to deliver a multipurpose space that reflected both the needs of staff and students and also that of the broader community. 

“The building has a number of design features that create a striking addition to East Park Terrace, and generate a genuine wow factor.” 

Guests at the event were able to explore those unique features, from the Spark’s huge, light and airy 20-metre-high atrium to the bright red, 67-tonne Pod lecture theatre, which is the building’s eye-catching centrepiece.  

Guests were able to view the Pod from all angles before the event

Mark Craven, Chartered Engineer at Scott White and Hookins, responsible for helping to ensure the design of the Pod by Scott Brownrigg could be delivered, discussed some of the challenges behind engineering the structure at the event.

“The Pod was a unique project to work on, and for me was an extra challenge as it formed the basis of my Chartership!” he says.

“The structure has been designed by Scott Brownrigg to reflect the region’s nautical heritage and while there were a number of structural challenges during the development phases, the end result is well worth it.” 

While the Spark is a key milestone, both in the ongoing development of the University’s East Park Terrace site and in the modernisation of Southampton city centre, its primarily purpose is to enhance Solent students’ learning.  

That’s why, as well as the Spark’s bold and innovative design, guests also had the chance to appreciate a display of creativity from students on the built environment course.  

And Osama Khan, Director of Solent Learning and Teaching Institute, was on hand to show how the building offers students from every discipline a twenty-first century learning experience.  

“It was fantastic to be able to present to industry professionals about how the built environment around us can be enhanced through the latest learning technologies,” says Osama.

“It’s not only the structural build that is so magnificent, but also the amount of technology that the University has invested in that enables staff and students to adapt the spaces to their individual needs.”  

That philosophy comes through in every aspect of the Spark, from the teaching technology to the furnishings.

“What was great about this project was that the team working on the design and build of the Spark recognised that the furniture should be considered at an early stage and not as an afterthought,” Wendy Sammels of Broadstock Furniture explains.

“We were able to work with the University and architects to develop a great experience for staff, students and guests. In fact, 84% of the classrooms are dedicated to non-traditional teaching spaces.”  

From the Atrium to the teaching rooms, staff and students can rearrange the space however they like, for almost any purpose, and it’ll still look beautiful. It’s a flexible, social and striking design – a perfect example of the thinking behind the Spark. 

Teaching in the Spark will commence in September 2016; for conferences and other events, the building is already available to hire. Visit our conference centre for more information, or view the Spark brochure