A major new university campus to meet the growing aspirations of local people

USS - University Square Stratford

Location London
Client Birkbeck & The University of East London
Awards NLA Award 2014 – Education – Shortlisted

A brief history

AWW was appointed to complete the detailed design and to deliver this multifunction new build HE project for Birkbeck and the University of East London. The scheme provides specialist performing arts studios, music practice rooms and lecture theatres as well as a range of general purpose teaching and learning facilities and associated support accommodation.


University Square Stratford provided a unique opportunity for two institutions with complementary aims and aspirations to operate in a new manner and to deliver an ambitious programme of outreach and community participation. These new ways of operating required significant change in culture and operational procedure.

Design delivery

The design quality of the scheme and its bold palette of materials - exposed concrete, bronze alloy and black ceramic granite cladding - allowed the building to assume a distinct identity of its own which could belong to both institutions. The branding for the scheme was developed alongside AWW and reflects the design ethos of the project with crisp clean lines and intense colour contrasts.

Overcoming challenges

On a tight urban site in East London, adjacent to a major traffic interchange, and requiring road closures and major drainage diversions, University Square Stratford was a particularly challenging project. Construction logistics were further constrained by the traffic and security restrictions imposed by the London Olympics. For both logistical and environmental reasons, pre-assembled plant was used extensively and all operatives had to use public transport.

User experience

University Square Stratford uses the central top lit atrium to help with internal wayfinding on a human scale. Each floor interacts with this volume in a different way, be that a viewing galley, bridge, balcony or window and its near constant visibility allows building users to quickly orientate themselves and determine their location.

A tranquil urban garden is set alongside the adjacent buildings. This refuge provides habitat opportunities for wildlife and a space for staff and students to relax.


University Square Stratford was awarded BREEAM Excellent. The 8,000 sqm building was constructed on a brownfield site bounded by roads on three sides. At the heart of the building is a vast internal atrium which floods the interior with light. Around its perimeter are a variety of spaces and rooms looking into the volume. These are equipped with adaptive lighting technology which responds to the quantity of natural borrowed light they receive from the space and which helps to lower energy costs.


The ceramic granite cladding provides a high quality and durable aesthetic, acknowledging the highly urban location.

Harmonising spaces assist in internal wayfinding

The challenge with a large building is to provide both a sense of human scale linked to a particular location and a unifying component for orientation.

University Square is an exciting development in Birkbeck’s project to extend the availability of its unique, evening taught provision in east London. The shared nature of the building means that students in Stratford will benefit from a truly flexible, high-quality higher education offering.

The Master of Birkbeck, Professor David Latchman CBE


The massing reflects internal functionality, with copper alloy panels deployed to express the articulation.

Promoting social interaction

The plan is configured around the central atrium, providing a theatrical quality and enabling clear lines of sight across the void.

Typical floor plan

Facilities are arranged around the central atrium, with large volumes articulated and open plan study areas around the void promoting visual interaction.

The new education hub by Birkbeck and University of East London is an exciting addition to the world class facilities already available in Newham. The new campus will not only create a wealth of benefits for the local area, the borough and East London but will also inspire our residents to upskill, and enhance their employment opportunities helping to provide a lasting legacy for the community.

Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham