Science Building, University Of Portsmouth

This building was part of the university master plan, in which the departments of pharmacy and physics were to be consolidated. The project was also to form a transition between the adjacent six-storey university building and the future four-storey White Swan development to the east. Occupying a prominent corner site, the new building is located in an indeterminate urban area where the continuous history of an older city has been fractured by the single-minded over-confidence of the road engineers. The natural system of pedestrian connections, streets and pavements are rudely interrupted, making a strange environment that might be called an ‘edge city’.

The science building forms an extension to the existing St Michael’s building. However, unlike St Michael’s, the new building almost totally fills its irregular site. The curved façade acts as a shield to the traffic noise and southerly exposure. The windows are set flush in the six-storey façade of silver aluminium panels, the semi-circular corner prow forming the landmark and concealing the flank of (incomplete) St Michael’s. At ground level a pedestrian pavement cuts into the corner, forming a flat panel for the building sign.

The east elevation facing the city car park expresses the four-storey structural frame. It forms one side of a proposed pedestrian street which gives access to the main entrance. Inside, lecture theatres and large teaching laboratories are accommodated in the semi-circular corner, with the remaining accommodation planned in a less specific, more flexible manner. The client stipulated that the labs should be white with grey floors, prompting the thought that in contrast to this antiseptic world, colour should have a role in the general experience of the building. The red stair, the blue stair, the ochre stair and the Pompeian red to the lecture theatre are the result.