The recently completed UTC Swindon was officially opened by The Duke, Thursday, 11 December.
Designed and delivered by international design practice, Scott Brownrigg and constructed by BAM, the £10m college provides a new concept in technical education for students aged 14 to 19; an “engineering academy” at the heart of a large engineering, manufacturing and business community.
His Royal Highness met with the design and delivery teams, as well as students, directors, teachers and UTC Swindon Sponsors – Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells and Oxford Brookes University, before unveiling a commemorative plaque to officially open the college. UTC Swindon Principal Angela Barker-Dench showed The Duke around the college site, which he had previously visited in February whilst it was under construction.
Angela Barker-Dench said:
“The official opening of the college is an historic moment for UTC Swindon – and another milestone in the town’s heritage. His Royal Highness has a passion for engineering, manufacturing and apprenticeships. He shares our beliefs about skills and preparing students for the workplace or University.”
The design for the college references the sites’ location, within Swindon’s historic Railway Village, and provides a clear link between ‘historic’ engineering and ‘engineering the future’.
Extensive liaison with English Heritage and the council’s Conservation Officer has resulted in a development that respects the industrial history of the site and enhances the Railway Village Conservation Area. The extensive renovation and restoration of a number of existing historic buildings including a Grade II Listed school building and water tower have provided integral and iconic elements to the completed college.
In addition a new ‘hub’ building has been created, inspired by the former ‘smithy’ building, long demolished, which once resided in the heart of the space. It is separated from the existing historic Mill and GW1 workshops by a glazed slot, re-emphasizing the old against new. The creation of the hub will allow for a cross- fertilisation of ideas by students and tutors alike. Future proofed it will allow for flexibility and reshaping as the needs of the college evolve.
On approaching the site, and passing by the site on the main London to Cardiff train link, the water tower provides a land mark and integral feature of the educational offering.
Other key elements include a new entrance which incorporates display areas and offers views into the workshops and upwards to the Science Centre; a terrace forms a ‘second elevation’, enabling the work of the UTC to be viewed from the adjacent railway by millions of rail travellers.
The design maximises the height within the Old Mill so that the first floor can open into larger double height spaces as required in the adjoining canopy. The retention of the Great Western Railway cast iron columns provides a reminder of the engineering of the past. The new main façade is constructed in Corten, historically referencing the significant metallurgy discoveries on the site and the steel that was championed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel who has a legacy with the site and wider historic Railway Village in which the University Technical College resides.
Jon James, Director at Scott Brownrigg said:
“Through a collaborative working relationship with the key sponsors, English Heritage and the Conservation Officer we have been able to develop a truly iconic building that is respectful to the industrial and cultural heritage of Railway Village. It was a delight to see The Duke engaging with, and appreciating the work which has gone into creating this truly unique University Technical College.”