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Epic Buildings: Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, London School of Economics

Shortlisted for the 2015 Building Magazine Project of the Year and the Riba Stirling Prize, the London School of Economics’ (LSE) new Saw Swee Hock student centre is a redbrick university building with a twist. Well, more than a twist…

This incredible, angular building is the multi-faceted and incredibly textural creation of Irish architects O’Donnell + Tuomey, working with contractor Geoffrey Osborne, structural engineer Horganlynch Consulting and services engineer Chapman BDSP.

An incredibly striking construction by all accounts, the true beauty of the Saw Swee Hock centre lies in its topography and geography. Creating a striking building in the midst of LSE narrow walkways is certainly no mean feat, but the new building effortlessly skims through its tricky site, generously allowing light through to existing buildings, whilst creating an equally generous, naturally lit space inside.

By painstakingly mapping sight lines along LSE’s small streets, O’Donnell + Tuomey have been able to give more to the campus and take more for the new student centre, with no structure feeling swamped or losing out.

The new centre has been built to house all of LSE’s student services under one roof. Comprised of seven stories, this irregular building has managed to provide the space required for these services, make a huge visual impact on campus, yet avoid dwarfing or overshadowing existing buildings.

With public entrances that align with approaching streets to the north, south and east, this is a truly ergonomically designed place, with areas for users to congregate and chat, prayer rooms, bars, cafés, events rooms, a gym, studios, offices and more, all cleverly housed in a space architect O’Donnell + Tuomey describe as:

“Like a Japanese puzzle, our design is carefully assembled to make one coherent volume from a complex set of interdependent component parts,”.

We especially like the creators’ clever take on “redbrick”. Once a dowdy, historic and pretentious building material (especially for a university), this novel approach, which used “perforated planes” made of a single leaf of brickwork and spaces in the Flemish bond pattern, is an incredibly creative update for the material.

Are you impressed by the Saw Swee Hock building? Which construction projects have most impressed you recently? Share your opinions with our readers below.