Student Accomodation Building

Architect Studio 4 Architects, Portsmouth
Completed 2001


Highbury College is situated on England’s South Coast, in the historic city of Portsmouth. Home to the British Navy for more than 500 years, Portsmouth has many landmarks and attractions. One of the most famous is HMS Victory, the ship commanded by Lord Horatio Nelson. A new landmark building is ‘The Tower’ at Highbury College’s main campus at Cosham.

The college, which attracts students from 40 countries around the world, is committed to helping young people achieve their goals. The college offers facilities across four sites, all with a first class reputation for excellence and support. It is one of the largest further educational colleges in England, offering 800 courses to 10,000 students each year. In 1998 an ambitious programme of works was started to upgrade a number of the old campus buildings to help provide a more attractive environment for the staff and students. As part of this major refurbishment programme, several buildings at the Cosham campus have been overclad using ALUCOBOND®. One of the most striking transformations has taken place on what was a drab concrete 1950’s tower block. This was refurbished to provide 75 new student bedrooms along with a new library and teaching rooms. Known locally as ‘The Tower’, all bedrooms enjoy views of Portsmouth and its coastline and offer students a modern and spacious living environment. Each floor consists of 15 bedrooms, two kitchens, dining area, lounge, television and pay phone. Each bedroom includes a bed, desk, bathroom, television and computer points. Students also have access to a laundry room and smoking room. There is 24-hour security in operation at the site.
A bold cladding solution was chosen, utilising the college’s own corporate Blue colour and Silver metallic with a striking fin feature in Pale green, to give the building a dramatic and modern look. The wide combination of geometric shapes and flat surfaces required to be formed by the cladding system, meant that the choice of material was critical in ensuring that the finished project was completed to the quality demanded by the design team. Studio 4 Architects specified 6,000 m2 of ALUCOBOND® for this purpose, as they were aware that the product’s inherent properties of flatness, crispness of detailing as well as a worldwide track record of proven resistance to an aggressive marine environment, would ensure the required quality demanded by the design team. As this was an existing building, it was also important that the chosen material should be lightweight, another major feature of ALUCOBOND®. The cladding of the whole tower including the replacement of all the glazing was completed in only six months. C. A. Fabrications Ltd, utilising the SZ20 system, undertook the design and fabrication of the ALUCOBOND®cladding. One of the main reasons for selecting this particular method was the very demanding construction programme. Because the SZ20 system can span large distances between vertical supports, and is quick and easy to install, it was an ideal solution to help achieve a fast completion. The new cladding has made “The Tower” a strong local landmark. This was recognised in 2002 when the Portsmouth Society awarded the project a commendation in the category of ‘Best Restoration’ in the 2002 design awards.