• 2500 separate glass panels make up the workshop roof
  • The unique angled roof allows the maximum light to get into the laboratories and workshops
  • It was designated Grade 2* by the Department of National Heritage in 1993

A striking building for a royal University

In 1957 as University College, Leicester, gained its Royal Charter and became Leicester University, plans for new campus buildings included an engineering building on a site near Victoria Park. The commission was given to architects James Stirling and James Gowan and the building was completed in 1963.

“The Engineering Building is a design of such radical and uncompromising power that it has divided critics dramatically from its first unveiling in 1963”.

Thomas Pearson

Form and function

Built in 1959-63, the new building looked different from anything else planned for the campus. The engineers wanted a water tank for the ground floor hydraulics laboratory so, to create the required pressure, the tank was placed on top of the tower. Lecture rooms stick out at right angles and the tower also houses laboratories and offices. The ground floor buildings have a distinctive angled roof to allow in north light – similar to factory roofs – and contain workshops and laboratories. The design of this roof is unique and there are two types of glass in the roof: translucent ply-glass with an inner layer of fibreglass, and opaque glass coated with aluminium. The distinction between the two only becomes noticeable at night when the building is illuminated.

 

Inside a workshop you can see how the design of the roof windows bring in the light. University of Leicester

Love it or hate it!

Students of architecture like the fact that the shape of the building reflects its use. Look at most buildings and you will see that their shape rarely gives any clue as to their function. Many people recognised the building as ground breaking and it is often said to be the first ‘Post-Modern’ building in Britain. It was listed as Grade 2* by the Department of National Heritage in 1993, and in 2008 it was chosen in a newspaper article as one of the ten most inspiring buildings in Britain.

However, at the time not everyone shared this appreciation and the Leicester Mercury newspaper reported reactions that included ‘bizarre’, ‘angry’, ‘controversial’, ‘rubbery’ and ‘man-hating’!

Refurbishment schemes in 1985 and 2011 (when each of the 2,500 workshop roof panels were replaced) will ensure this iconic building´s survival well into the future.

Gallery

Roman Leicester

(47- 500) A military fort was erected, attracting traders and a growing civilian community to Leicester (known as Ratae Corieltauvorum to the Romans). The town steadily grew throughout the reign of the Romans.

Medieval Leicester

(500 – 1500) The early years of this period was one of unrest with Saxon, Danes and Norman invaders having their influences over the town. Later, of course, came Richard III and the final battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought on Leicester’s doorstep.

Tudor & Stuart Leicester

(1500 – 1700) The wool trade flourished in Leicester with one local, a former mayor named William Wigston, making his fortune. During the English Civil War a bloody battle was fought as the forces of King Charles I laid siege to the town.

Georgian Leicester

(1700 – 1837) The knitting industry had really stared to take hold and Leicester was fast becoming the main centre of hosiery manufacture in Britain. This new prosperity was reflected throughout the town with broader, paved streets lined with elegant brick buildings and genteel residences.

Edwardian Leicester

(1901 – 1910) Electric trams came to the streets of Leicester and increased literacy among the citizens led to many becoming politicised. The famous 1905 ‘March of the Unemployed to London’ left from Leicester market when 30,000 people came to witness the historic event.

Early 20th Century Leicester

(1910 – 1973) The diverse industrial base meant Leicester was able to cope with the economic challenges of the 1920s and 1930s. New light engineering businesses, such as typewriter and scientific instrument making, complemented the more traditional industries of hosiery and footwear manufacturing.

Modern Leicester

(1973 – present day) Industry was still thriving in the city during the 1970s, with the work opportunities attracting many immigrants from all over the world. While industry has declined in recent years, excellent transport links have made Leicester an attractive centre for many businesses. The City now has much to be proud of including its sporting achievements and the richness of its cultural heritage and diversity.

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