How we did it: De Montfort University business and law school

A campus upgrade led to a partnership project that created a public square and an integrated streetscape

De Montfort: new road layout joined listed building to the streetscape
De Montfort: new road layout joined listed building to the streetscape

Project: Construction of a new business and law school building at De Montfort University with a public square and integrated streetscape and ring road improvements.

Construction of a new business and law school building at De Montfort University with a public square and integrated streetscape and ring road improvements.

Background: A campus masterplan led to the partnership project.

Who is behind it? De Montfort University, Leicester City Council, AIMS, White Young Green, Leicester Regeneration Company, the East Midlands Development Agency and English Heritage.

Project aims: To transform the university campus, reconnect the streetscape, reduce the impact of the ring road and integrate a listed building with the new development.

Skills involved: Planning, architectural design, highways engineering, conservation and project management.

In 2004 an outline planning application was approved by Leicester City Council for a ten-year, £35 million development programme to regenerate De Montfort University's campus. The proposal included upgraded teaching and student facilities, student and private housing as well as commercial developments associated with the university.

The university worked in partnership with Leicester City Council, Leicester Regeneration Company, the East Midlands Development Agency and English Heritage to deliver a comprehensive masterplan.

The development objectives were to deliver a new business and law school of high architectural quality, provide a new square and improve links between the university and city centre.

The project also sought to reduce the severance imposed by the inner ring road and reconnect a listed building and an ancient monument with the streetscape.

A multidisciplinary working group including members of the city council's planning and highways teams was established to work closely with the university and designers to ensure the aspirations of all the relevant bodies were delivered.

The main campus was expanded to incorporate the state-of-the-art Hugh Aston faculty of business and law building, named after a 16th century composer and former mayor of Leicester. Aston was also director of music at a college and hospital in the Newarke area of the city which is now the location of the De Montfort University campus.

The building consolidates teaching facilities and caters for 6,000 students and staff. It boasts contemporary lecture theatres and classrooms equipped with up-to-date audio visual technologies, a mock courtroom, a law library and a dedicated law clinic, as well as a bespoke suite for postgraduate and professional education.

A key feature of the project was the removal of a subway and the realignment of a dual carriageway ring road which isolated the Magazine, a 14th century scheduled ancient monument and grade I listed building in the heart of Leicester's old town.

A radical proposal was agreed which reduced the road from four lanes of traffic to a single lane realigned to the eastern side of the Magazine. This allowed the new university building to be designed in a way that reconnected the Magazine with the building line of the streetscape and made it a focal point as part of a new square.

The building is now a key feature of the new Magazine Square, a tree-lined pedestrian plaza with cafes, public atriums and a bookshop. This provides a pleasant space for university students and staff as well as a gateway between the city and the campus.

"This imaginative project has transformed the university campus, substantially reduced the impact of the ring road and reconnected this area to the city centre," declares the council's director of planning and economic development Andrew Smith.

"The project has been delivered through a truly creative partnership, driven by skilled professionals willing to be highly flexible in their approach."

Mudrika Patel works in information services for Leicester City Council's regeneration and culture department.


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