The Jarman Building, The University of Kent’s new
School of Arts building, which Hawkins\Brown won through a design
competition in 2007, is now complete and has been awarded an RIBA
(Royal Institute of British Architects) Award 2010.
Previously split across various buildings on the campus, the new zinc-
clad building consolidates three different departments of the School –
drama, film and visual arts – under one roof.
The £6.6 million project comprises drama rehearsal studios, art
gallery, film and edit suites, a postgraduate centre, academic offices,
administrative facilities and supporting services.
When Hawkins\Brown won the commission in 2007 they were praised
by the competition jury for their vision for new centre as an integrated
department. The jury commented: “Five architects have designed
beautiful buildings, but only Hawkins\Brown have designed a School
of Drama, Film and Visual Arts.”
The award-winning practice has created a gateway building for the
campus on the site of a former roundabout. Working in collaboration
with landscape designer Farrer Huxley, the two practices have cleverly
inserted two new squares within the heart of the campus.
With the formal qualities of a town square the new landscaping at the
front of the building provides an arrival point on the campus, with links
to the Student Union building opposite. A second square connects the
new School of Arts to the University’s Architecture Department and
offers students substantial outdoor space to display, perform and
showcase their artwork, offering the opportunity for collaboration
between the two departments.
The building is wrapped entirely in tiled zinc cladding and punctured
regularly with recessed openings. This façade treatment responds to
the muted language and blockwork module of the adjacent 1960s
A flush glazed high specification curtain walling system provides a
datum around the building, bringing natural daylight into the circulation
spaces and offering views into the ground and first floor of the building.
Solar shading is provided through the use of encapsulated zinc mesh
within the system, negating the requirement for any applied projected
external shading, which would disrupt the building’s seamless form.
Two sets of emergency staircases, enclosed in a dressing of zinc
mesh (and eventually climbing plants), flank the building. They work to
soften the building’s solidity.
Inside, the offices, lecture rooms, communal areas, dance, drama area
and art studios are arranged around a spacious and north-lit 3-storey atrium. Hawkins\Brown worked in close collaboration with Arup to
provide a predominantly natural ventilated building using stack effect
chimneys within the generous double and triple height spaces.
Mechanical ventilation is kept to a minimum, used only within the Film
Department where acoustics and high levels of control are required.
Due to the nature of the building the separate internal volumes provide
the ability to control environments individually as appropriate to their
The building’s simple yet bold square plan beguiles the intricately
arranged internal spaces. Box-like rooms, mostly double-height,
individually cater for the distinct and separate environments
appropriate to each of the departments.
The central atrium accommodates a robust steel staircase with link
spaces that provide informal meeting and social spaces encouraging
interaction between the students and staff from the different
departments. A distinctive but neutral colour palette of black, white
and grey helps to bring order to a series of spaces that are full of
energy and activity. This neutral background is highlighted by flashes
of bright red in the form of a ‘family’ of furniture; glossy red chairs,
geometric soft sofas, fatboy beanbags, and deck chairs are scattered
throughout the building. Red fluorescent baton lights and neon
signage in the foyer spaces complement the interior architecture. A
loose composition of spherical light fittings cascades through the light
well, visually connecting the levels with a cloud of light.
At roof level, offices for the academics are arranged around a roof
terrace offering an outdoor meeting/teaching space. Although
proportionally much smaller than the ‘box-like’ rooms on other floors,
each office features a full-height window wide and tall enough for a
person to stand against, thereby introducing a human scale to the
Hawkins\Brown’s design ultimately offers a flexible container for
various uses, within which the School of Arts can grow and adapt in
“The School of Arts succeeds in terms of both its architectural presence
on the university campus and of its interiors, which reinforce a sense of
community in teachers and students, who benefit from well-delivered
studios for drama, film and visual arts. Above the perimeter clusters of
staff offices are accessible and well-lit and surround the heart of the
schools which is three storey open atrium, which has tough finishes of
steel and timber to the balustrades. A simple internal colour palette of
red, black, white and grey has been adopted, while externally zinc
shingle sheets predominate as a self-finished cladding which should still
look good over time. This building demonstrates how good design can
improve learning and is an exemplar for future campus architecture.” RIBA Awards 2010 Jury citation.