History of the University of York – Campus Design

[Andrew Derbyshire] Except for Heslington
Hall, which was almost derelict at that time, it was a clean slate. I’d never had a clean
slate to work on before on such a scale. It was magic as far as I was concerned. I saw
the University as a large scale experiment which should be tested as it grew. We designed
a system of covered ways connecting the buildings together, in such a way that to go from any
building to any other building you had to go through another one to promote informal contact,
mixing and so on. [Ron Cooke] What I inherited was the master
plan for the campus by Andrew Derbyshire, which always anticipated growth. It was very
cleverly designed so each college had a core and a periphery of rooms which were both academic
and residential, and the idea always was that as departments grew, they grew out into
the residential bits and you created new colleges so that inherited. [Andrew Derbyshire] The site was in fact a
bog. The ground survey indicated that water levels were very high, even on the hill. And
we knew that therefore, there would be an increased run-off due to more hard surfaces,
roofs and so on, and we’d have to cope with this run-off somehow or other. We said to
the University, “We really think it’s essential for our purposes, and the University wants
to have a lake, so can we have a bit more money. It’s not a lot, it’ll be very cheap”.
We wanted to make a variety of different relationships between buildings and water, and we wanted
to establish a circular walk around the lake which would go in and out of buildings and
into the grass and onto a bridge and so on. [Ron Cooke] I found at York that there was
lots of space that could be developed and wasn’t being fully used, so there was a lot
of potential to grow. You didn’t want to develop too many buildings on the campus because you
wanted to keep the parkland impression, which is very real and very important,
so that the footprint of buildings was always going to be a maximum of 24%. [Jon Meacock] One of the main features about
the Heslington East campus was a requirement to really mirror the best features of Heslington
West. So, that is buildings that are set at a human scale, also looking at a very quality
environment setting, and then finally the integration of both academic, residential
and social spaces all together. Now, because the scale of the University has grown since
its inception in the 1960’s, that had to be done in a modern idiom. [Ron Cooke] It wasn’t just a question of doing
development for its own sake, there’s no point in that. The pressure was from departments
who needed to grow in order to be fully internationally competitive. So, a good example is Computer
Science. Brilliant department, had old buildings, needed a new building, so we built them a
new building. [Jon Meacock] Heslington East allows us to
redevelop the existing campus on Heslington West. The old 1960’s buildings are getting
tired. Those students that are resident in them appreciate that the quality of the accommodation
isn’t as good as that that’s on Heslington East. So we need to improve both the residential, teaching
and also the social spaces on Heslington West, because we can now decant departments onto
Heslington East. It gives us the space to allow us to redevelop Heslington West and
I’m currently working on a 10-year plan for the redevelopment of Heslington West. [Ron Cooke] Well, it’s all very embarrassing,
I mean most people think I’m dead, or they think I paid for it! Haha, no, it’s fine; the building’s excellent, it’s a pity about the name, but there you go.

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