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The transformation of the main entrance for City, University of London creates a transparent, interactive new hub for not only a significant London campus, but also the surrounding neighborhood.

City, University of London’s main building on Northampton Square was designed by Sir Richard Herbert Sheppard in the 1960s with an elevated ground floor and concourse to allow pedestrians and cars to flow beneath. Ill-considered 1980s extensions obstructed this accessibility, making the building appear fortress-like and obscuring its original sculptural quality.

Furthermore, persistent overcrowding around the main entrance provoked a rethink. The university initially planned to build an additional concourse on the north side of the building to relieve congestion, but NBBJ worked closely with the university to develop an alternative masterplan that would transform the estate in a manner true to its original concept, by adapting the structure rather than adding to it.

The resulting freed-up ground floor opens new views through the building, showcases the reception area, social spaces, lounges and a café, and creates an entrance that is active and welcoming. Stepped, frameless glazing on Northampton Square blurs the threshold between inside and outside and puts the original concrete columns on display.

A new glazed pavilion with multi-purpose space increases capacity and accommodates a variety of events for students and the community. By removing the existing mezzanine, creating a large new opening into the basement and introducing a generous staircase, the design links multiple campus levels for the first time via a sequence of tall open spaces.

The design also celebrates the dramatic structure of the original University Hall, seemingly floating above the new lobby. Converted into a Harvard-style lecture theatre, it offers carefully calibrated acoustics and glare-free natural light.

Awards and Publications


AJ Retrofit Award shortlist
New London Architecture New London Awards, Conservation & Retrofit shortlist


University Business, “City refurb creates a warm welcome,” April 05, 2017