Grafton Architects Building Again at Kingston University

John Hill
18. January 2023
Town House - Kingston University by Grafton Architects, 2019 (Photo © Ed Reeve)

According to a statement from the university, the Dublin firm headed by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara “[will] develop initial design concepts for a proposed academic building and other improvements at the Middle Mill site next to its Knights Park campus.” Of the four Kingston University campuses, the Knights Park campus, located next to the Hogsmill River, is home to the Kingston School of Art. The proposed building will consist of studio space for the school as well as technical support facilities for students. Building Design reports the building will also have a 200-seat lecture theatre, an exhibition space, and “a faith and spirituality facility.” The landscape component is meant to be “sympathetic” to the river and the Knights Park neighborhood.

The competition, run by Kingston with RIBA Competitions, pared the 60 expressions of interest down to a shortlist of six firms, who then outlined their approaches for the project late last year: Carmody Groarke, Caruso St John Architects, Grafton Architects, Hall McKnight, Haworth Tompkins, and Reiach and Hall. Grafton Architects must have had an unfair advantage given their previous relationship with the university and the widespread acclaim bestowed upon the Town House, which won both the RIBA Stirling Prize and the EUmies Award. “The landmark building,” says the university, “has proven popular with students and earned glowing commendations since opening in early 2020.” 

It is too early in the process for design renderings for a building intended to start construction in 2026 and open in 2029. At this stage Grafton only has ideas and intentions, with McNamara stating:

“Our aim is to develop an optimistic model of how we inhabit the earth – how we can occupy land in responsible, imaginative, caring ways. While education is a serious business, we also want to capture the joy of discovery. We see the river as a thread binding the campus together, joining Knights Park to a new building. The proximity of the life of the river and the life of the building will be there together, of equal status.” 

And Farrell adding: 

“Architecture has a real role to play in heightening awareness of where people are on the planet, while we often liken education to a flowing, sharing river. We want to design something that capitalizes on and emphasizes what the University has to offer already and that is equally full of hope for a sustainable future for generations to come. We also want to create a threshold that is soft, welcoming and inviting to reflect the importance the University places on its outreach with the wider community.” 

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