Original features

July 16, 2009

The University of Essex's Ivor Crewe lecture hall in Colchester, which opened in 2006, was described as "looking like a dustbin" by the Prince of Wales last year.

Only a few weeks later, it was shortlisted for - and then went on to win - a national award by the Civic Trust, a charity of which the royal is patron. It has also been awarded prestigious prizes by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

The oval lecture hall, designed by architecture firm Patel Taylor and built for £6 million, stands on sloping ground, with entrances on two levels, and is linked by a bridge to the heart of the Essex campus. It is built largely of concrete, but clad with interlocking shingles of brightly polished stainless steel, which reflect the surrounding scenery and provide a dramatic focal point for the whole area. The roof is supported by laminated timber and steel beams.

Named after the Essex vice-chancellor who served from 1995 to 2007, the auditorium is one of the largest in Britain. It can seat up to 1,000 people for major events such as graduation ceremonies, although it can be divided in two for examinations and exhibitions.

Send suggestions for this architectural series to: matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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