n the heart of the Bloomsbury Conservation Area of King’s Cross in central London, a new £140m redevel- opment of affordable student accommodation called ‘Garden Halls’ has been completed, replacing the former 1930s and 1950s buildings.

Architects Maccreanor Lavington worked alongside executive architects tp bennett to design the principal nine-storey facade facing Cartwright Gardens, along with a lower seven-storey building at the corner of this historic and prestigious site. A reworking of the Canterbury, Commonwealth and Hughes Parry Halls, the new structures were formed using an in situ concrete frame with brick-faced concrete cladding panels on all external elevations, while two new internal court- yards feature a render finish. The private gardens were also redeveloped, and four new tennis courts installed.

Built for the University of London in partnership with student accommodation provider University Partnership Programme, the result is one of the largest halls of residence in London, housing 1,200 rooms.


The project has already achieved widespread critical acclaim from the archi- tectural fraternity, partly due to the extremely high quality of finish and level of attention to detail.

The client said that the accommodation would allows students to live, study and unwind in an “inspirational, safe and secure environment,” supported by pastoral care. Shared kitchens, peer learning space, TV lounges, a games room, music room, dining facilities and a cinema room all create a sense of comfort for students to relax away from home.

Hoping to engender a healthy environ- ment outdoors as well as in, bike storage, landscaped gardens, green courtyards and the free use of the four tennis courts are all included for the student residents. The provision of a 24 hour reception, catering and security services provide an extra sense of ease. Garden Halls are also security patrolled, utilising CCTV to keep the building as secure as possible. Included in the design are a range of room options to cater for different budgets and requirements, comprising a mixture of single and double bedrooms, ranging from 9 to 23m2

. There are 759 en-suite rooms,

12 self-contained studio rooms, 154 townhouse rooms, 225 shared superior


rooms and five three-bed apartments on offer. Space has been used economically throughout the apartments, providing a high level of style and function in restricted spaces. All the apartments are fully fitted, ready for students to move in with a minimum of hassle. Set in the heart of the capital, the halls benefit from unrivalled travel links, just a short walk from St Pancras International and King’s Cross stations, as well close proximity to a host of local amenities.

The site

The area of Bloomsbury is often noted for its formally planned arrangement of streets and leafy squares, boasting some of the best-preserved London squares within its conservation area. Gavin Finnan, associate director at Maccreanor Lavington explains the archi- tects’ approach to what is a historically sensitive site: “The challenge was to design a contemporary nine storey facade along one side of a historic garden square, opposite a crescent of listed four-storey Georgian townhouses. He adds: “The project takes its cues from the larger Victorian and Edwardian buildings that have been previously added to the fabric of Bloomsbury. The design shows a meticulous approach to scale, order and relief.”

The previous student lodgings of Garden Halls were architecturally typical of the mid-20th century, lacking in the modern facilities necessary in state of the art univer- sity accommodation, and according to the architect, were “uninspiring to look at.” He describes the historic context from a designer’s point of view: “Townhouses arranged in terraces are the predominant building form across the area, with a large majority of residential development from the Stuart, Georgian, Regency and early Victorian periods.

“This provides a distinctive, repeated grain to large parts of Bloomsbury. Overlain on this pattern is the significant influence of a series of much larger build- ings associated with a number of large institutional uses, which have shaped the development pattern over time.” Such buildings include the site of the former Foundling Hospital, The British Museum, Great Ormond Street, and the University of London itself. Several of these larger buildings form a significant frontage to some of the squares within the area. “These buildings date from a variety of periods and architectural languages, but


The method delivers a building akin to traditional masonry, while minimising on-site labour, reducing the programme and cost of the facade by a third

Gavin Finnan, associate director at Maccreanor Lavington


The architects were able to design intricate window reveals for the brick facade, using a precast panel method which would conceal joints and give an authentic monolithic appearance


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