Where Whitechapel meets the affluence of the City, an intentionally modest building rises quietly above the stimulating chaos of the surrounding bustling adjacent clothes market, its restrained palette of materials a counterpart to a thousand competing fabrics. This is the Law Department for London Metropolitan University (LMU), completed by Wright & Wright in 2003.
The site is in Goulston Street, next to the Women’s Library, unifying this part of the university’s estate. A number of elements had to be brought together in a building that inculcates a sociable and industrious atmosphere for students and staff. Teaching spaces included a basement lecture theatre and 13 seminar rooms, along with a mock court, staff offices and common room.
These complex requirements were elegantly resolved in a scheme that is both legible and flexible. Seminar rooms are arranged off a top lit internal street, which functions as the building’s principal circulation spine and social focus, populated by informal study areas and a café.
It is a wonderful example of what can be achieved by a facility to enhance the experience of everyone regardless of their disability, age or gender and it has clearly benefited from the architect involving an active local access group at an early stage.
Founder of the London School of Architecture
The building is largely three storeys high, rising up to five floors at the southern end to hide the exposed side of Calcutta House, LMU’s main building, a converted tea warehouse made of brick. This neighbour inspired the use of visually and physically robust machine-cut red bricks, which are easy to clean if vandalised.
Windows are expressed in the façade, either as punched holes or ribbons of galvanised dark-grey steel, making the internal layout legible externally. This is a careful reading of, and response to, an uncompromising inner urban context, resulting in a tough yet distinguished piece of architecture designed and built to last.
Where the tough urban grain of Whitechapel meets the high rise glass facades of the City, the Law Department rises above the chaos of the surrounding clothes market, its restrained palette of materials a counterpart to a thousand competing fabrics.
Our two additions to the Campus are keen to avoid sibling rivalry; the Law Department is informed by a pragmatic response to its surroundings, and defers to its more high-profile neighbour, the Women's Library, completed by the practice in 2001.