FBM Architects shortlisted competition entry for a new student village on the Tocil Ponds site at the University of Chester was developed with Fulcrum Consulting, Campbell Reith and MESH Landscape Architects.
The Tocil Ponds site is split into two parcels, bisected by a trunk road. The western parcel lies adjacent to the canal and overlooks wetlands. The eastern parcel lies within the Finchetts Gutter flood zone. Our approach to each parcel was different and arose through an analysis of the opportunities and constraints that existed. Canalside apartments on the western parcel were formed from part three and part four storey blocks containing en-suite study bedrooms arranged into courtyards, maximizing views across to the canal. A canalside ‘hub’ was to be provided adjacent to the embankment to encourage links with the existing campus. The eastern parcel was to form ‘The Village’. Here, we proposed a terraced house solution, creating a true ‘village’ character. Each house provided a communal space on the ground floor and six or eight study bedrooms above, within three storeys, set under a pitched roof. Locating the habitable rooms on the ground floor had a number of benefits, including reducing travel distances for housekeeping staff, separating ‘noisy’ from ‘quiet’ spaces, and overcoming the issue of the flood plain. The houses were grouped into terraces arranged around a central wetland, created from Finchetts Gutter, providing a distinct wetland character, which acted as both amenity space as well as part of the SUDS strategy. The wetlands and marginal habitats were drawn up into the semi-private courtyards located between the townhouses.
A student hub was to be located on the waterside, overlooking the new pond; situated on the south side of the Village site, so as to draw student residents in other parts of the campus to this area and avoid disturbing neighbouring residences. The hub was to be a spectacular feature building, providing a café/ bar, Facilities Management space and a shop. It could also be extended to provide conference venues to promote out of season use of the student village.