The Spark at Southampton Solent wins Best Student Experience Award

02.11.17

The Spark building at Southampton Solent University, designed by Scott Brownrigg, has won the Best Student Experience category at the Education Estates Awards held 1 Nov 2017.

The awards recognise excellence in the education built environment and the win reflects the successes that the Practice is experiencing in pushing innovation and the student learning experience within the education sector.

The 10,000 sq. m Spark building is a major vehicle for institutional change and has revolutionised the teaching, learning and student experience at Southampton Solent University.

Ian Pratt, Director at Scott Brownrigg who was responsible for the design said: “We’re delighted that the Spark has won the Best Student Experience Award, it reinforces the importance of collaborative design, and from the architects perspective it reflects the importance of putting the user at the centre of the design concept. The Spark has revolutionised the student experience at Southampton Solent and is already helping to define and reinforce the University’s brand and reputation and to attract students from the UK and overseas.” 

The ‘game-changing’ design for the BREEAM ‘Excellent’ building provides a ‘mixed economy’ of teaching and learning spaces, which promote interdisciplinary activity and collaboration, and enables staff and students to see and share their learning and teaching experiences, knowledge and research.  These include gallery areas, balconies, ‘window-box’ break-out spaces and the centrally located ‘Pod’. The atrium provides a major arrival space with social learning areas and a venue for presentations, graduation ceremonies, gala dinners, exhibitions and fashion shows; along with an HD digital media wall to project updates on academic life at the University. Unifying the new and the existing, the atrium breathes life into the adjacent John Everett Millais Building.

Vice-Chancellor of Southampton Solent University Professor Graham Baldwin says: “We are delighted that our Spark building has won the Student Experience Award. Since the Spark opened for teaching in September 2016, thousands of students have benefited from learning in its state-of-the-art classrooms. From a diverse range of backgrounds, these students are united in their pride at being part of a university which is making such a significant investment in their education – singling out the Spark as a point of excellence in course feedback surveys."

 “And the building has been having a similar impact at open days, wowing guests when they arrive and helping create a fantastic first impression of Southampton Solent University. The Spark is a physical demonstration of Solent’s commitment to providing an exceptional learning and teaching environment for its students, with parents and prospective students alike commenting positively on the building. A popular and impactful addition to the campus, the Spark has enhanced the student experience, contributed to a cutting-edge learning environment, and allowed the University to build on its reputation as an innovative and creative place of study. It has been an exceptional success for Solent and its students, and will continue to show its value for decades to come."

Reinforcing Solent’s commitment to equality and access,  The Spark has the largest proportion of agile spaces and furniture compared to others within the sector - designed to promote creativity, independent thinking and learning – breaking away from the traditional ‘receiver of knowledge’ mentality. It is also believed to be one of the most universally accessible buildings within the sector. Every space has been designed with accessibility in mind.  Each room accommodates wheelchair users and features a height adjustable table. Internal circulation arrangements are clear and simple, aiding user orientation and way finding, minimising travel distances to the principle spaces.

A technology enhanced learning environment,  The Spark also takes advantage of the latest technology and educational theories, including ‘Bring Your Own Device’, lecture capture, Virtual Learning Environment and ‘Flipped Classroom’, facilitating efficient programme delivery, distance, active, blended and remote learning.  Integrating digital classroom management, attendance monitoring and timetabling systems has revolutionised space management, monitoring and utilisation.

The Spark is already helping to define and reinforce the University’s brand and reputation – attracting students from the UK and overseas.  In addition, 40 students also gained employability experience through the delivery of the project.

The vision, brief and design proposal for the building was developed in close consultation with a wide range of stakeholders including the:  Vice Chancellor’s Group; Project Steering Group; Board of Governors; Resources Committee; Estates and Facilities Team; academics, students from the various faculties and departments; Students Union; and local planning authority. Its completion in 2016 marked the end of a four year journey for Scott Brownrigg and the University community and was the culmination of an incredibly rewarding inter-disciplinary design and construction collaboration. At full capacity, The Spark can accommodate 2,600 people and the facilities are used by all five of Solent’s schools.

The Spark beat off stiff competition from The Bartlett School of Architecture, Bristol Business School UWE, New Adelphi: University of Salford and Highgate Junior School to clinch the award.

Scott Brownrigg are also delighted The Spark was Highly Commended in the Project of the Year Category too.

Watch a video of The Spark at Southampton Solent University.

Watch an animation of the Spark being designed by the Scott Brownrigg team.

"We're flying high at Solent".