A NEW £19 million teaching and learning building has opened its doors at the University of Warwick this week.
The state-of-the-art flagship building – dubbed The Oculus on account of its eye-shaped architecture – opened to students at the Canley-based this morning (October 17) and is the university’s first building dedicated solely to teaching and learning, rather than research or faculty facilities.
Observer news editor, Lauren Clarke, was invited to the university last week as one of the new building’s first visitors.
As a Warwick alumni, I must admit it is a little strange returning to the campus I called home for four years and realising I do not recognise my surroundings.
Looming over central campus, The Oculus is an impressive feat of engineering – its large, curved frontage simultaneously dominating its surroundings and blending into its surroundings on account of its sympathetic glass and wooden materials.
Boasting two lecture theatres, one seating 500 people and the other 250, as well as 14 top quality flexible teaching spaces all kitted out with the latest technology.
The high, vaulted wooden ceilings give the building a huge sense of space and light – a far cry from the darkened, boxy lecture theatres I had my lectures in.
University vice president Lawrence Young oversaw the project throughout its two-year journey from a concept on the page to brick and mortar reality.
“This is the first big build we’ve had since the university’s 50th birthday last year,” Mr Young told me.
“And it’s also providing, for the first time an integrated teaching space with students from different disciplines mixing for the first time – from maths, to business, to English to history.
“We wanted to think about teaching in a different way, particularly in a research-intensive university, and not have it siloed away somewhere.
“This building will serve as a visual symbol for showing our commitment to teaching being at the heart of what Warwick University is about.”
The grand, central atrium – complete with video wall – leads off into the two lecture theatres in the centre of the building and the smaller teaching rooms and study areas to either side.
Electronic screens outside each room will show live timetables and interactive digital boards will help students find their way around the new building.
But the building, designed by Berman Guedes Stretton and built by contractors Willmott Dixon, is not just about teaching current students – it’s about looking to the future and being able to adapt to changing methods of teaching and areas of study.
Me Young added: “This year, right now, we have students on campus for the first time studying for our new Liberal Ats degree and Global Sustainability degrees – both of which have multi-disciplinarity at their core.
“We’re good at research here at Warwick, but we’re particularly good at breaking down the barriers between different disciplines.
“This building is our commitment to the ongoing development of teaching and had certainly set the bar very high for future developments on campus.”
In addition to the continual ongoing work to enhance facilities around campus, future projects include a £40 million sport and wellness facilities, hoped to be completed by October 2018.