Intercity Place, University of Plymouth

From tired landmark to immersive institution

Location
North Road West, Plymouth
Client
University of Plymouth
Completion
2023

Our InterCity Place refurbishment turns a tired landmark into a state-of-the-art training facility where ambitious healthcare students become skilled NHS practitioners.

Built in 1962 as offices for British Railways, the eleven-storey tower sets the first impression for rail passengers arriving in the Ocean City. After a period of neglect, the University of Plymouth saw an opportunity to give an iconic building a new lease of life—and unite their disparate healthcare schools under one roof.

Choosing reuse over demolition has provided the University with a brand new facility in the heart of the city, in all but the concrete frame. InterCity Place shows how a neglected 1960’s office block can be repurposed into a transformational facility for the next generation of healthcare workers—and a city’s wider regeneration.

Turning an office tower into a teaching environment

As with many reuse projects, the challenge was designing for a specific usage in an existing structure. In this case, creating a replica hospital within the constraints of an office tower.

Large, specialist NHS equipment had to be squeezed between floor heights; new water access and drainage plumbed-in; significant fire safety upgrades to the structure; and approval for increased occupancy. All in a dated structure that sits above a live railway line.

Stripping the tower down to its concrete frame allowed us to start afresh, deliver the required structural works, and create a platform for the interior fit out. Working with MICA Architects, we also replaced the dated façade with a timeless anodised design that celebrates the building’s heritage and offers a thermally efficient skin.

Achieving SKA Gold

The University is a leader in higher education sustainability and their low impact campus is key to that. InterCity Place contributes to that success by achieving SKA Gold, the highest environmental benchmark in the RICS’s assessment for non-domestic fit outs.

The building’s relatively narrow floor plate allows natural light to flood the plan, but is controlled by ‘fins’ within the façade’s curtain walling to prevent overheating.

Natural ventilation and heat recovery units on each level provide additional heating and cooling, and negate the need for bulky centralised air handling units and miles of ductwork. Up top, the roof is fully fitted out with PV panels which connect to a screen in the ground floor cafe to show the energy generated.

A major benefit of retrofit over demolition is the saving in embodied carbon, while 94% of the project’s construction waste was diverted from landfill.

Before
After
Before
After

A subtle ’60s throwback

Our interior approach reflects InterCity Place’s 1960s heritage in colour and material palette. The University wanted to retain the yellow from the stair cores that bookend the tower, so we applied it to key features and now at night, the building emits a soft ‘mango glow’.

To give each program its own identity and aid with wayfinding, bold mid-century colours adorn the doors on each floor, with a matching palette on the floors, feature walls, and furniture finishes. Where it wasn’t possible to retain original features, such as the terrazzo flooring in the cores, we looked for alternatives which gave the same ’60s flavour, but are better suited for the wear and tear of a teaching environment.

Cutting edge simulation spaces

To help students gain ‘real-world’ clinical skills, nine of the eleven floors simulate hospital wards and treatment rooms. A midwifery suite, for example, houses lifelike dummies of babies and mothers; a replica home prepares nurses for community visits; consultation rooms allow one-to-one conversation practice; and an Anatomage table lets students virtually dissect the human body.

A healthy mix of offices, classrooms, and social study areas complement the simulation spaces, where students can work alone, in groups, or watch back recordings of their practical work. Critically, the University’s nursing, midwifery, and allied health professionals can now work together; a major challenge in their previous homes across the city.

University of Plymouth is at the forefront of education and research in health and social care. InterCity Place is an embodiment of this commitment. These fantastic new facilities give our students the best possible immersive experience so they’re ready to lead positive change.

Sube Banerjee MBE, Executive Dean, University of Plymouth

InterCity Place is integral to a 10-year masterplan to revitalise both the University of Plymouth campus and Plymouth Railway Station, designed to massively improve the welcome for visitors and commuters arriving in Britain’s Ocean City.