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  • 9400

    Square metres of new space

  • 300

    cycle storage spaces

  • 50

    Million Pounds of capital investment

Town House is a major new entrance for university


  • Major part of university estate investment
  • New centrepeice for the university
  • Designed by RIBA award-winning Grafton Architects
  • BREEAM Excellent that offers a vibrant new face to the university

We further extended our track-record for transforming university campuses with the £50m landmark teaching building for Kingston University called Town House, named in 2020 by The Guardian as one its 'buildings that inspire'.

Designed by 2020 RIBA Gold Medal-winning Grafton Architects as a centre for its campus and connection with Kingston-upon-Thames, the 9,403 square metre, six-storey building on Penrhyn Road replaces an outdated, temporary building.

Kingston University wanted to create a building that reflected the importance of its civic role within Kingston upon Thames.

Unique welcome

The Town House had to be a welcoming environment that would allow opportunities for collaboration between the university and local residents and businesses. It also needed to supply a library, dance studios, studio theatre and flexible learning spaces for students.

It also had to be striking enough to provide an impressive physical symbol of shared learning experiences and community. Half the students at Kingston are the first in their family to attend university and the university wanted to use architecture to make students feel like they belong.

The result is a building incorporating covered internal courtyard, a multi-floor library, open auditorium, dance studios and a studio theatre, as well as a range of informal learning spaces and two publicly accessible cafés. It has a series of external balconies and walkways, culminating in a rooftop garden with views across Kingston and the River Thames To Hampton Court.

While more than half of the space is open plan, secluded corners allow for private study and group work. Sliding walls make for a flexible ground floor space with banks of seating that can be used for a theatre or lecture audience.

Multitude of uses

The facility gives Kingston University a warm welcome to students, staff, alumni and the local community alike, acting as the University's front door, providing information and assistance, celebrating learning, showcasing achievements and supporting collaborations with industry and others.

As with all our large university projects, Town House was modelled to BIM Level 2 protocols, with much of the building constructed from precast concrete.

Kingston Students inside mid.jpg

Design excellence

This is the first building in the UK for Grafton and in a nod to its surroundings, it includes a traditional hand-laid full brick finish to panels across the exterior elevations and sections of reconstituted stone, carefully chosen to reflect the Portland stone of Surrey County Hall across the road.

Importantly with climate change issues never far away, Town House is rated BREEAM Excellent for its many sustainability features which include a photovoltaic array, a large sustainable urban drainage system (SUDS), a thermally active building system (TABS) for underfloor cooling, multiple brown roofs and two roof gardens.

Roger Forsdyke, Managing Director of Willmott Dixon in London & South:

“Town House was a hugely ambitious project – one we fully embraced. Although it was complex and highly challenging at times, it’s testament to our people’s dedication that the original design has been realised to such exacting standards.
From the outset we knew that the exposed concrete frame would be a key feature of this landmark building. Our challenge was to deliver a sleek, consistent and quality finish that would also hide all the building services from public view. The decision was made to switch from an in-situ concrete solution to a pre-cast, manufactured off site solution. This would ensure a quality finish could be achieved off-site and easily assembled on atight site constrained by residential properties and the live main campus building. The pre-cast element was also a neat solution for the concealment of essential building services that were necessary to provide the electrical and cooling services for the entire building. BIM level 2 was used to coordinate the huge numbers of individual column and beam components with the clash detection work.
This inspirational education space will be enjoyed by the university and community for years to come."

Professor Steven Spier, Vice-Chancellor of Kingston University:

“Town House will not only provide much needed structured and informal learning for students, but will be a building for the whole community to use. A world-class building of this kind sends a strong signal to our students, staff and the higher education sector of the value of what Kingston University does. Grafton Architects’ interpretation of our design brief, along with Willmott Dixon’s commitment to ensuring it was brought to life, will ensure the building’s presence helps dissolve the boundaries between the University and the Royal Borough of Kingston.”

Most of Town House’s pre-cast concrete beams are 500mm deep. The 750mm deep beams weigh as much as 22 tonnes. All were lifted into position directly from the delivery wagon, helping to maximise the construction efficiencies associated with pre-fabrication and significantly reduce vehicle movement and wastage on site. The floor slabs are of composite construction, with a ‘Twin T’ 50mm-thick and 2m wide plank supporting the wet underfloor highly sustainable cooling system, which was fixed into place before concrete was poured to bring it up to full slab depth.

Specialist sound absorption has been used extensively to avoid noise reverberation and create acoustically suitable spaces for diverse activities. Twelve water fountains have been installed to reduce the need for bottled water, and all taps, showers and toilets are low water usage appliances. The urinals are waterless. To encourage cyclists, there are six individual showers, as well as lockers and drying facilities, and 300+ cycle storage spaces, linking with the Royal Borough of Kingston’s ‘Go Cycle’ scheme on Penrhyn Road.

Town House, Kingston University - View south down Penrhyn Road ©Dennis Gilbert cropped.jpg

Town House comprises:

  • A learning resources centre - library and associated resources on several floors, including quiet study space for groups and individuals
  • Flexible technology throughout - to support inventive studying and collaborative group work
  • A covered courtyard - designed for innovative learning and experimentation, as well as civic engagement and creative enterprise opportunities
  • Specialist learning spaces - providing flexible rehearsal spaces for academic dance courses
  • Space for events
  • Cafes
  • New public landscaped areas.

University leader

We have a long track-record of enhancing university estates, using our knowledge of live-environment working to minimise disruption. Other recently completed projects include the Student Life Building at Teesside University, Poole Gateway Building at Bournemouth University, creating the new Green Heart for University of Birmingham, Bath Spa University’s Locksbrook Road campus, Coventry University’s Centre for Advanced Low-Carbon Propulsion Systems and the Kennedy Building at the University of Kent.