A sight to see: LSE’s Saw Swee Hock Student Centre

Osborne have recently completed the handover of the £25 million London School of Economics’ Saw Swee Hock Student Centre.

The Saw Swee Hock is one of Osborne’s most innovative and ambitious constructions to date, fulfilling the specification from LSE who wanted nothing less than the ‘the best student centre in the world’. This is LSE’s first new building in over 40 years, with the staff and students moving into the building on 6 January, and it is set to become a landmark for both the university’s campus and for its Holborn location.

Designed by Irish architects O’Donnell & Tuomey, the building will enhance the student experience, becoming the hub of the students’ social and learning activities. It houses what is set to be a much-loved student pub, music venue/nightclub, learning cafe, faith centre, coffee/juice bar, media centre, Student Union offices and an exhibition space.

Saw Swee Hock’s exterior is one of great marvel; it is urban, characterised with its punched windows and straight lines and sharp angles, but it also retains a sense of sculptural expression. From the outside, the lattice brickwork, which consists of 100,000 handmade bricks and 47 different brick types, gives off a lantern effect when illuminated and aids the cooling of the building on hot summer days.

The centre has been an incredible opportunity for Osborne to demonstrate its skills in inspirational, innovative and sustainable construction. The building has an extremely complex concrete frame consisting of raking walls, complex junction details and fair-faced concrete finishes. There are over 40 different wall or roof facade planes, of which no two are identical. Even the concrete spiral staircases add a sense of awe to the building, designed to give the impression of being lifted towards the light.

Julian Robinson, LSE’s Director of Estates, explains, “The sheer scale of LSE’s ambition, Osborne’s craftsmanship, and O’Donnell & Tuomey’s creativity mean that I can honestly say, in my 25 years of working in development and construction, I have never commissioned a building of this architectural quality and breath-taking uniqueness.”

The building is set to gain several awards. It has already won the silver award at the 2013 Considerate Constructors National Awards and previously won the New London Award in 2012, with further nominations expected. Moreover, it has received an ‘Outstanding’ status under Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM), being only the 17th building worldwide, the first in higher education in London and only the second establishment in higher education to achieve this high standard of sustainability.