Hopkins Architects has been announced as the winner of the MK:U International Design Competition. The competition sought a multidisciplinary team for the first phase of a new model university in Milton Keynes, the UK's fastest-growing city.
The jurors were persuaded by the clarity and confidence of Hopkins Architects' competition concept design, as well as the team's collaborative approach to creating exceptional higher educational buildings internationally and the quality of their team.
The winning team described their competition scheme as an open quarter with a bold new urban frontage made up of a series of orthogonal academic pavilions, showcasing the university's activities in new technologies such as AI and robotics; their vision taking its inspiration from the famous infinity street at MIT in the US. The scheme both echoes the format of the original MK vision with calm super-rational buildings surrounded by greenery, while also envisaging a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly future.
A new civic realm for the proposed new university quarter includes a graduation lawn and formal water feature. The forum, the scheme's centerpiece, is immediately recognizable with an eye-catching drum-shaped red lecture theatre within the glass entrance lobby, reminiscent of a giant friendship bead, which is welcoming to students, visitors and locals.
The proposed new university, which is due to open to its first undergraduates in 2023, will focus on digital economy skills; new technologies including AI, robotics and cybersecurity; and practical, business-and-entrepreneurship-oriented courses as well as courses in design thinking and professional and commercial skills. The university also plans to offer fast-track two-year undergraduate degrees.
MK:U, a partnership between MKC and Cranfield University, will use the new university quarter and the wider city as a 'living lab' to test out new concepts and ideas, and inspire Milton Keynes' students and citizens. Benefitting from the last major undeveloped site in the city center, and mixing university facilities with public spaces, MK:U will also be a destination open 24/7, welcoming the wider community.
Images: Courtesy of Hopkins Architects