University of Leeds Auditoria

Project Information

Burwell Architects were appointed by the University of Leeds to undertake the refurbishment of three lecture theatres as part of a wide-ranging review of existing learning & teaching spaces. The designs include bespoke iterations of Burwell Architects' award-winning Connect Seating, previously used at Queen University Belfast and Loughborough Design School. Integrating state of the art technology, including internet enabled touch screen hybrid laptop’s, ‘touch to talk’ desk microphone, built in speaker, HDMI input, USB charging and power supply, into our renowned Connect Seating.

For the refurbishment in the iconic Grade II Listed Roger Stevens Building, the sensitive nature and the rigid structure of the building meant that we had to re-think our Connect seating, as it wouldn’t work within the existing space. So, Connect Pods where created. 


“To say that the post refurbishment results show a ‘Cinderella like’ transformation in satisfaction ratings would not be untrue. The (consistently) highest change in satisfaction from student groups was in the area of the facility lending itself to group work. The Dental lecture theatre returned an increase of 56 percentage points, Roger Stevens LT8 showed a 48.7 percentage point rise and Mech. Eng lecture theatre B managed a (mere!) 46.3 percentage point improvement. By any measure, these are exceptionally good results”. James Curtis of Curtis Associates Research (Client Appointed Independent Researcher) 

David Keir Student Hub

Project Information
Client Testimonials
Awards and Commendations

Queen’s University Belfast

Working within the circulation patterns of the David Kier Building, the new Student Hub and the revitalised lecture theatre combine to create an “open all hours” collaborative learning environment that extends the use of facilities beyond the standard academic day, providing a new, local, focus for student life. The interconnected levels and seating corrals combine to create a series of spaces that subtly move from public to private.

Status      Completed 2014

"It creates spaces both internal and external which have immediately become popular spaces for students and staff, delivering on the most important criterion for the success of the design - to provide a space where students wish to be." Head of Estates Planning, Queen's University Belfast

Shortlisted for RIBA Northern Ireland Award

Finalist for WAN Education Award

UCL SLMS Imaging Facility

Project Information

As part of the Transforming UCL £1.2 billion building and refurbishment programme, Burwell Architects were appointed to undertake the refurbishment of a number of rooms within the basement level of the Anatomy and Medical Sciences building to create a world-class high-throughput cell imaging and screening laboratory. This comprises 2 area, a MRC screening platform and an imaging facility for both confocal and electron microscopes

Royal Free Hub

Project Information

A vibrant new student hub has been created in a formally underused space at Royal Free Hospital, providing students with a place to study, collaborate and relax. The hub is defined by a mix of high backed sofas creating intimate study spaces, shared tables offering spaces for group work, and a bar table along the window wall providing naturally lit workspaces. The kitchen is separated from the main hub by a slatted oak screen and provides generous tables and benches for communal gathering, combined with pendant lights that give the space an inviting domestic feel.

Loughborough Design School

Project Information
Awards and Commendations

Loughborough University
BREEAM Excellent

‘A focal point for high quality design thinking on the campus that will communicate the University’s expertise to industry and the wider world’ – this was the vision. A simple circulation pattern acts as a transparent communication loop, which expands and contracts to be an ever-changing working exhibition of the university’s design and research skills. The informal design engenders a fertile environment: it embodies advanced ideas for learning environments and sustainability, and speaks to its surrounding community by including public exhibition and café spaces at ground level.

Gross Floor Area      7,920sqm
Construction Value      £14.5m
Status Completed 2012


RIBA National Award

RIBA East Midlands Building of the Year Award

RIBA East Midlands Sustainability Award

RIBA East Midlands Client of the Year

FX International Interior Design Award for Workplace Seating


Connect Seating

Project Information

Burwell Architects have lead the development of master plans, learning environments and higher education estate strategies and we have become recognised thought leaders in learning and teaching environments. With this wealth of experience designing higher education buildings across a diverse range of universities, we identified a consistent issue with the disconnect between contemporary learning and traditional lecture theatres. During this time we became expert in understanding how learning styles have evolved over time with increased diversity of student intake, and understanding how the environments for which we design needs to accommodate these different styles of learning.

In 2011, we were appointed by Loughborough University as Lead Consultant and Architect to design Loughborough Design School. Burwell worked with Tony Hodgson (Dean of Loughborough Design School) and Caroline Pepper (Learning Environments Manager) to develop a lecture theatre format that allows this didactic / collaborative learning format. Inspired by the repetitive yet informal geometry of the Giant Causeway, a series of repeat bench units with shared tables snake across the auditorium. This maximises sightlines whilst allowing interchange between didactic an group learning formats without the reorganization of either furniture or student, whilst allowing teaching staff to move between the tables and talk directly to groups of students during collaborative learning periods. We worked with Race Furniture and Jam Tree to identify a pragmatic resolution to overcome the continuing disconnect between contemporary and traditional lecture theatre pedagogies. Reinterpretating traditional bench seating, we created Connect seating, a lecture theatre seating solution that encourages both didactic and collaborative learning. The project went on to win numerous awards, including RIBA East Midlands Building of the Year and FX International Design Award for Workplace Seating. 

Although Connect was founded at Loughborough Design School, we have since used the same concept across various universities including the award winning Exchange for Falmouth University and University of Exeter, The David Kier Hub at Queens University Belfast and we are currently on site at Leeds University incorporating Connect seating into the refurbishment of lecture theatres across the campus including the iconic Grade II listed Roger Stevens building. 

UCL Cruciform Hub

Project Information
Awards and Commendations

University College London

The Cruciform Hub provides a range of new social and learning spaces within the lower ground floor of the Grade II Listed Cruciform Building, located on UCL’s Bloomsbury Campus.

The project delivers a dramatic transformation. It provides students with a vibrant and engaging environment, whilst sensitively reusing an iconic building and incorporating historic features uncovered during the works. A new entrance and staircase link provides direct access from the ground floor entrance hall, and allows daylight to filter into the basement spaces. Light further penetrates the space through newly opened up windows and rooflight inserts, which offer framed views from basement level of the building’s gothic façade. Following extensive consultation with students through prototyping of furniture and spatial arrangements, the project provides collaborative learning spaces that respond to new ways of working required by today’s medical students.

Status      Completed 2014

Shortlisted for NLA Award for Education

Shortlisted for AJ Retrofit Award for Higher Education

The House

Project Information
Awards and Commendations

Plymouth University

Plymouth University needed a new home for their performing arts programme, which could contribute to the cultural life of the city whilst communicating the work of students and touring companies to a wider audience. The House provides a range of performance, technical and staff spaces, including a “white-box” theatre space, specialist music areas, and a new flexible 300 capacity auditorium. The front of house is arranged as a creative home for students, whilst a staircase winds through the space mediating between the public spaces of Plymouth’s nascent cultural quarter, with informal spaces used by students for creative improvisation and impromptu performance.

Abercrombie Award for Best New Building

UCL Wilkins Lower Refectory

Project Information


The Lower Refectory is located at lower ground floor level in the Grade I listed Wilkins building, and occupies a key location connecting the new Wilkins Terrace with the forthcoming New Student Centre (currently on site).  The new facility provides a reconfigured dining hall, servery, kitchen and catering support facilities to service UCL’s Bloomsbury campus.

The Dining Hall has been relocated to the heart of the Wilkins Building to inhabit the original grand double height arched space, whilst the servery and support facilities have been relocated to the secondary spaces below the existing Bloomsbury Theatre and the new Wilkins Terrace.

The existing suspended ceilings and interstitial plant deck in the main space have been removed allowing the original masonry arches and clerestory windows to be exposed again, re-establishing double height day lighting to both sides of the dining hall, providing UCL with a grand collegiate dining facility at the heart of the Bloomsbury Campus.

The main entrance to the servery align with a new north-south route that will be created once the New Student Centre project is completed.  In order to improve the connection between the North and South Colonnades and across campus, the glazing to these facades has been restored and additional entrance doors have been added.

Fixed tall banquette seats align with the existing arched piers and provide defined spaces within the dining hall linked with a large, dramatic circular light installation. The east and west ends of the dining hall have more intimate seating areas and a hospitality bar (for events) with lowered acoustic timber ceilings creating added intimacy. The flanking orangery spaces have more informal low banquette seating, and a stone floor finish enhances the connectivity with the external colonnades and terrace.

Science and Engineering Research Support Facility

Project Information

University of Exeter
BREEAM Excellent

The Science and Engineering Research Support Facility (SERSF) is the first of a three-phase development at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

The 1,200sqm, two-storey SERSF building has been designed to accommodate a combination of Cat 2 laboratories for offshore renewables and biosciences academics, enabling an expansion of the research led by the Marine Renewables team and the Centre for Ecology and Conservation (CEC). The facility will also provide a home for the University of Exeter Business School as it expands into Cornwall. The building also features a dedicated space for business engagement called ‘The Collaboratory’.

The subsequent two phases will each be of a similar size, with ‘knuckles’ between the buildings providing informal hubs that further facilitate multidisciplinary interchange. The resultant asymmetrical plan arrangement provides for a spine of individual office and write-up spaces adjacent to larger flexible open plan research space.

Exposed concrete and extensive solar shading help to keep the building thermally stable, with all the major spaces designed to be capable of being either naturally ventilated or mechanically ventilated with chilled beam cooling. This approach allows minimal use of energy today, and long-term flexibility should the building's function change in the future.

The flat roof has been utilized for photovoltaic distribution along with a zone for open-air research. Material finishes have been carefully chosen for their environmental impact and to enhance the building’s identity on campus. The carpet is appropriately made from 100% recycled fishing nets.

The SERSF was jointly funded by the European Regional Development Fund Convergence Programme (£3.9 million) and the University of Exeter (£1.6 million).

Gross Floor Area     
Project Value 
Status Completed 2015

UCL Object Based Learning Facility

Project Information

Located beneath the portico of the Grade I Listed Wilkins Building at the heart of UCL's Bloomsbury Campus, the Object Based Learning Facility provides a state of the art teaching facility in what was previously the Old Refectory.

The principles of minimum disruption to historic fabric and reversibility were agreed with and supported by the conservation officer at Camden Council and developed into a free standing contemporary structure within the room. In this way works to the Grade I listed fabric were kept to a minimum and the integrity of the space maintained. 

As part of this approach, a clear spanning ceiling raft offers a home for all services, including AV and lighting whilst providing acoustic absorption. The raft supports house screens and teaching equipment while discretely accommodating support technology as well a coats and bags.

Flexible furniture facilitates a range of arrangements to suit different teacher and object focused learning formats, whilst the flip top tables can be arranged for special dining events or simply placed in the adjacent furniture stores for open plan VIP & fund raising events.


The Exchange

Project Information
Awards and Commendations

Falmouth University & University of Exeter

The extension to the existing library at the Penryn campus knits together the principles and educational goals of two institutions. Running down the hillside, the interior flows between social eddy pools and informal learning environments. These complement the more formal learning spaces and develop a collaborative cultural life at the heart of the campus. The Exchange will become a part of daily life; a welcoming village street to which students will gravitate naturally, spontaneously, or intentionally, to meet, continue conversations, study, exchange ideas, or seek advice and support.

RIBA South West Award

Commendation for Concrete Society Award for Education