Newcastle shows its green credentials

In a city that is regenerating itself, new structures need to project confidence, something the unmissable Verde does with ease, writes Ray Philpott

erde is an unashamedly attention- grabbing, showstopper of a building. Clad in reflective, chromatic green ceramic tiles, the front of this striking new structure resembles the prow of large ship, projecting out of the fresh, contemporary urban landscape that has completely reshaped the area’s indus- trial past.


Built to meet the city’s growing demand for student residences away from the suburbs, it is undeniably a statement build- ing, a million miles away in design ethos from the utilitarian accommodation so often seen in the higher education sector. Verde sits between the rising, V-shaped junction of two major streets, and is the fourth and final phase of the £250m Downing Plaza. Designed by architects SimpsonHaugh the scheme has a series of attractive, modern buildings providing 120,000 ft2

of teaching space for

Newcastle University Business School, more than 1,800 student bedrooms and extensive retail provision. Together with Science Central, a new 23-acre mixed-use development being constructed to the west, Downing Plaza forms a gateway to Newcastle city centre. Given that architectural environment, SimpsonHaugh and its long-standing client, student accommodation specialist Downing, realised Verde needed to be a visually impressive, high-quality building from the outset.

The 540-bedroom building has two distinct elements; a nine-storey ‘V’-shaped structure where Wellington Street and Pitt


Street meet, and a broadly ‘L’-shaped, 10- storey building positioned to create a secure, gated triangular courtyard area bordered by the public footpath that forms the third ‘side’ of the site.

There is a seven metre fall across the

site, which has been exploited by setting the ‘L’-shaped building lower than the other helping to break up the roofline and improve views from both Barrack Road to the south east and views down Pitt Street. Entrances to both buildings are from the courtyard. One sits within a triple-height walk through area effectively cut out of the lower part of the ‘L’ building, the second located in the wide crux of the ‘V’ building.

Rich and vibrant

Verde replaces two demolished blocks of 1960s flats immediately north of the former Scottish and Newcastle brewery site Downing Plaza is built on, although little original infrastructure remains. SimpsonHaugh Partner Matthew Ayers

says: “While the ship-like aspect acknowl- edges Newcastle’s maritime connections we didn’t want to create a historical pastiche. “There’s a distinctive new-build aesthetic to the area. You have to look at Verde with Downing Plaza in mind, partic- ularly The View, the tallest building with vivid blue colours and the exterior of the building opposite with its bold orange, strong golds and bronzes. “We needed to balance this with something rich and vibrant. A strong green


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