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An interesting article in this week’s Estates Gazette hails Stratford as the capital’s new education district. Newham Council Director of Regeneration, Planning and Olympic Legacy Jo Negrini commented “The bigger the Stratford cluster becomes, the more interest there will be from overseas universities. If you look at Barcelona post the 1992 Olympics it was an old manufacturing area and the first thing the regeneration focused on after the Games was to get in a university”.

The swathe of development in the area for the Olympics is noted for putting Stratford on the map but the availability of space is also attributed to the increased interest in Stratford, as Ralph Ward, planning adviser at UK Regeneration, explains; “Space is key. There is plenty of room in Stratford for large campuses. And it is space that comes with an identity now. The perception of Stratford has changed – it is seen as a place people could move into and grow as the area grows. People recognise the area has a really exciting future and they want to get in on it.” “Apart for the young demographic already there – which fuels a student-friendly culture – it is near Hackney and Shoreditch which are magnets for young people. The artistic presence and musical sub-culture around these areas is extremely powerful. It’s where people want to be”.

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The world-leading Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), UCL and Loughborough are all pursuing plans in Stratford. This month The University of East London and Birkbeck University of London jointly opened the 92,500 sq ft University Square campus. On a tight urban site in East London, adjacent to a major traffic interchange, and requiring road closures and major drainage diversions, University Square Stratford was a particularly challenging project. AWW was appointed by Volker Fitzpatrick to complete the detailed design and worked with them to deliver this multifunctional new build HE project. The scheme provides specialist performing arts studios, music practice rooms and lecture theatres as well as a range of general purpose teaching and learning facilities and associated support accommodation.

AWW successfully oversaw the construction of University Square Stratford during the duration and preparation for the London Olympics 2012.  “Whilst these short term constraints presented a challenge, the games have left a lasting legacy on the area. I consider Stratford to be ideally situated  to establish a new education district, with vastly improved infrastructure and a new appetite for development  there are opportunities to design unique, functional, and technologically advanced study and living experiences that can attract and retain students”, says Charles Jordan, Project Architect.

University Square houses the UEL School of Law and Institute of Performing Arts in addition to the Weston Learning Centre and teaching facilities. The project delivers a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ building utilising integrated PV façades, rainwater harvesting and intelligent control sensors to minimise energy consumption.

Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham praised the new scheme “The new education hub by Birkbeck and University of East London is an exciting addition to the world class facilities already available in Newham. The new campus will not only create a wealth of benefits for the local area, the borough and East London but will also inspire our residents to upskill, and enhance their employment opportunities helping to provide a lasting legacy for the community”.

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