Bentham House redevelopment receives planning approval

Thursday 13 November 2014

UCL Laws has received planning permission for the £18.5m redevelopment project for the Faculty’s historic home, Bentham House.

Responding to an ageing building, modern methods of learning, and a growing body of students and staff, this major refurbishment plan will provide more and higher quality space for offices, research and teaching, as well as new common areas to enhance the experience of Faculty life.

Bentham House, which was awarded Grade II listed status in May 2014, was originally built as the headquarters for the General and Municipal Worker’s Union and has been the Faculty’s home since 1965. In 2001, the Faculty acquired the adjacent building, Hillel House, designed by noted architect Richard Seifert.

Thanks to major gifts from alumni supporters and donors, including Sir Bernard Schreier, Winston Chu (LLB 1960) and Vincent Cheung (LLB 1965), the Hillel House was fully renovated, and now houses the Gideon Schreier and Graduate Wings.

The design for the new Bentham House from architects Levitt Bernstein will fully integrate, physically and socially, all existing parts of the Faculty. Currently, the two parts of the building are linked only at first floor level, meaning that many spaces are physically separated, leading to complicated access routes through the building. The layout will be rationalised, greatly improving the building’s wheelchair accessibility and legibility, and a bold new circulation route will lead through a central atrium to a new social hub, where new lift and stair access will aid way-finding.

Commenting on the project, Dean of UCL Laws, Professor Dame Hazel Genn, said: “Bentham House has been the Faculty’s home for almost 50 years and this exciting project marks an important moment in our history.

“The new development retains the history of Bentham House while offering modern facilities which reflect our position as a world-leading centre for legal education and scholarship.”

The extra space required will be created behind the Gideon Schreier Wing, ensuring that the original and much-loved Bentham House can remain largely unaltered. On the building’s lower floors, teaching spaces will be created, relocated and reconfigured to create a flexible suite of different sized teaching rooms, allowing a range of teaching styles, with a dedicated suite of rooms to accommodate PhD students. On the upper floors, new offices will accommodate the Faculty’s teaching staff.

Outside, the Gideon Schreier Wing will be re-clad in Portland stone, connecting the listed buildings to either side, reinstating the grain and proportions of the street, and reflecting the unified Faculty home inside.

Robert Staton, Project Officer at UCL Estates said: “The refurbishment and expansion of the Faculty of Laws will address long standing building and space deficiencies, provide high quality teaching and social learning spaces and provide the Faculty with an energy efficient, accessible building that will remain fit for purpose for the long term, whilst remaining sympathetic to the buildings history and status.”

UCL’s sustainability agenda has driven proposals to reduce energy consumption, and the new designs will also incorporate green features including bio-diverse roofs with photovoltaic arrays. A ‘BREEAM Very Good’ rating will be achieved.

Matthew Goulcher, Managing Director at Levitt Bernstein said: “This project for UCL’s Faculty of Laws provides them with state of the art facilities and also gives them a refreshed physical identity, achieved by combining the two disparate existing buildings to make a new, single architectural composition of real quality.”

Find out more about Transforming Bentham House

To find out more about the project to redevelop Bentham House, and how it will affect you, visit our Transforming Bentham House webpages.

You can also view a selection of design images from Levitt Bernstein on the UCL Laws Flickr channel.