A blend of Victorian engineering and modern architecture Northampton Students’ Union building wins design award

Date 24.07.2019

The Engine Shed, home to the University of Northampton Students’ Union, has won the coveted 2019 Creative Re-use Award from the The Association for Industrial Archaeology (AIA).

The awards celebrate building conversions that seamlessly merge modern architecture whilst maintaining similarities of the original design and the Association promotes the study, preservation and presentation of Britain’s industrial buildings.

Built in the 1870’s, The Engine Shed is a grade II listed Victorian building. Originally constructed for the Midland Railway, the building was designed to operate as a running shed for the servicing of locomotives on the Northampton to Bedford line. The building has since had many uses, however had become derelict over the past 15 years. The Engine Shed project has ensured a viable, and productive use for the Engine Shed as the new Students’ Union, an iconic element of the Waterside Campus development, which opened in August 2018.

The judges of the AIA noted that the new use of the building means that it will now have a viable long-term use as a multi-purpose building for the Students’ Union. There is a café and a multi-use space for all students to enjoy. To celebrate the restoration project, the University has installed a pop-up display about the project, a video loop showing a 3D computer model of the building as a locomotive shed and a time-lapse of the reconstruction, so the story of the site is well-communicated.

Gemma Lovegrove, current President of the Students’ Union commented, “It’s a real privilege to have received the AIA award. The Engine Shed is a dedicated, central hub for the whole student body and it’s something the Students’ Union is very proud of. The University has created a fantastic, welcoming space that will be enjoyed by students for years to come”.

As a building steeped in local history, the University decided to repurpose the Engine Shed and create a new Students’ Union. The original structure had deteriorated, the timbers had rotted, all the original windows were broken, and the building had been vandalised with graffiti.

Using as much of the original fabric as possible was a priority for the regeneration project with  the original rails, loading bar and bi-fold engine shed doors preserved and restored, The Engine Shed has been rebuilt into a space for all the student body to enjoy, from coffees and catch-ups to conferences and games nights. The Engine Shed is also the home of the Students’ Union’s pastoral support for students.

The building also features elements of modern design. For example, the roof is a recreation of the original ventilated structure and lamp-style lighting indicates the position of the original lines and evokes original gas lamps. The building features energy efficient design elements, to improve heat retention, air quality, low energy lighting and water-saving fittings. The Engine Shed is also connected to the campus wide heating system, which has been designed to produce less emissions than traditional systems, saving over 1,000 tons of CO2 annually across the campus.

Becky Bradshaw, Head of Campus Services at the University of Northampton commented, “We are delighted that the Engine Shed has won the Creative Re-use Award. It’s wonderful to see a building with rich local heritage being brought back to its former glory to become a central part of university life”.

The University has committed to a ten-year management and maintenance plan as a condition of National Lottery Heritage funding. The restoration project cost just over £4 million. Funding was received from the University (£3.8 million) and the National Lottery Fund (£1.3 million).

The Engine Shed restoration project acts as communal space for students and ensures that a key piece of local history has been saved for future generations to enjoy. The Engine Shed cafe is also open to members of the public, just one of the ways the Students’ Union is working to further integrate within the community Northampton.

For more information about the University of Northampton Students’ Union, visit their website.