A new quarter for city centre student living

New Bridewell

Location Bristol
Client Watkin Jones Group

A brief history

Our design for New Bridewell, a student accommodation and mixed use scheme, is part of AWW's regeneration work of the Nelson Street area which was spearheaded by our Courtrooms project. These developments are at the core of Bristol City Council’s regeneration aspirations for the area.

Project vision

The project vision was to provide a gateway building and distinctive architectural element of real quality to add much needed vibrancy to a previously rundown area. We wanted to provide a pedestrian link and public square between Rupert and Nelson Street that would enable this area to be utilised as a new outdoor public amenity space to provide real benefits to the local urban environment.

Design intent

The U-shaped plan form was developed to allow for active frontage on Rupert, Bridewell and Nelson Streets whilst opening up the inner courtyard to the new pedestrian route and reducing mass. The building culminates in a 15 storey landmark gateway to the city. The two new gables that face the public route differ in their scale and appearance to add interest and diversity to the space, whilst responding to and complementing its historical context.

Design delivery

The development removed the existing 1960s police headquarters which contributed little architecturally or contextually to this part of the city, and which negatively impacted on local heritage assets. It was replaced with a new mixed use development providing 500 new student bed spaces with additional commercial and retail opportunities on the ground floor.


The ecological enhancement of the site was of paramount importance. The design has incorporated the provision of biodiverse/ living roofs (with recommended species) and bird boxes. Low energy efficiency measures were incorporated to ensure that the carbon footprint of the development is kept to a minimum. We anticipate approximately a 17% reduction in carbon from the development, thanks to these measures.

User experience

Close proximity to the city centre promotes social inclusion by ensuring all building users have excellent access to shops, services and facilities. This centrally-located high quality student living offering enables Bristol to remain at the forefront of university study.

The scheme has created local employment opportunities, both during the construction phase and since the scheme has been operational, in an area where previously few jobs were generated.

View of the junction with Nelson and Bridewell Streets

Retail units provide active frontage to this important corner: the scale of the building has been reduced to respond to the adjacent listed buildings.

Rupert Street focal point

The corner feature tower reaches a height of 15 storeys and acts as a focal point for the approach along Rupert Street. The use of lightweight materials complements the contrasting masonry of the rest of the development.

Together with our earlier project, the Courtrooms, this development has transformed this neglected area of the city centre and brought life back to this important east-west link."

Philip Bevan, Director

Rupert Street elevation

The height of the building is at its greatest along the Rupert Street elevation, culminating at the tower on the corner between Rupert Street and Bridewell Street. This was perceived by the design team as an important termination of the building, whilst providing a dynamic gateway feature.

Concept diagrams

Emerging building mass in relation to site context, constraints and opportunities.

Site plan

The development is set out to respond to surrounding streets around a central courtyard. New public realm provides a popular pedestrian route between Rupert Street and Nelson Street.