The Sherbourne residences at the University of Warwick represented a challenge of both function and style. While the former was of paramount importance in the design, the material choices – and particularly the use of the Wienerberger Classic Blue & Chartham Multi Brick – were absolutely crucial to the latter.
As with any accommodation building, the core brief was to deliver on its functional requirements – six accommodation blocks of four storeys and 527 student bedrooms. Each block would require a lift/stairwell to serve eight self-contained flats, each with a maximum of 12 bedrooms. The rooms themselves needed to be 10 square metres, while there also needed to be tutor accommodation, a management suite and an energy centre.
However, despite the scale and detail of the requirements, the architects, Robothams Architecture, were keen to give the project a distinct aesthetic; not only to elevate the architectural integrity of the building, but to make it a genuinely attractive placed to live. To do so, they aimed to ensure the building worked both in isolation, and in the context of its surroundings.
The site itself was located in the northern part of the campus and therefore backed on to open farmland. As a result the building design needed to suit both the campus itself, and indeed the comparatively countrified landscape that it bordered. This was a key reason why brick was chosen; on one hand brick is a traditional urban building material and one that is synonymous with the British building vernacular; on the other it represents naturally sourced clay and has a life cycle that weathers and will sustain itself over a 200 years plus lifecycle. In this sense, brick can be considered as very much in keeping with the permanence of the natural environment beyond.
The design itself utilises both the Chartham Red Multi and the Classic Blue on the outward face, using the red in the main and the blue to create the greying brick base. The effect is to break up the mass of the elevations and bring visual variety. The roofs use curved Kalzip to lower the scale of the development, and bedroom windows built were into the roof in order to make the most of the countryside views. The architectural identity of each individual block is highlighted by the use of strikingly coloured panels within the window zones.
The overall effect is to achieve an excellent balance between the twin, and sometimes combative, demands of function and style. Through a carefully thought out design, and a perfectly judged clay brick façade choice, the Sherbourne residence at the University of Warwick has confidently delivered exactly that.