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University Hall wins prestigious restoration award

Nottingham Trent University’s sympathetic renovation of a former Wesleyan Chapel into a graduation and music venue has been recognised with a prestigious award from the Association for University Directors of Estates (AUDE).

The front of University Hall
University Hall, now a hub for arts events and graduation ceremonies, was sympathetically refurbished to maintain the building's original heritage

The University Impact Initiative of the Year award was granted to NTU in recognition of the extensive project which began when the university bought the former synagogue back in 2016.

Over the next few years, the Chapel was brought back to life, carefully restoring and preserving key features of the building, in order to create a graduation and concert venue.

In addition, the rear extension, which was originally constructed in 1976, was re-developed to accommodate a new Music Centre with dance and music studios as well as a dining facility and a green living wall, linked to the main Hall via a glass vestibule.

Consequently, the building has a contemporary feel whilst recognising and enhancing the historical aspect of Shakespeare Street and is not only an asset for students and staff, but a cultural and arts space for use by the wider community of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire through its public concert and events programme.

Craig Hession, Head of Construction Services at Nottingham Trent University, says of the project: “University Hall had a former life as a Wesleyan Chapel and taking and maintaining the best of the building’s history was really important to us.

“We needed to maintain that heritage while bringing new purpose to the building with, for instance, the best of current digital technology so that the building could be used for arts events and graduation ceremonies. Ventilation, heating and air-conditioning systems are hidden within a decorative ceiling, while data and power systems are within traditional pew seating. You could say we’ve completed the restoration with sympathy. But empathy is also the right word: we really cared about the process and we are proud of the results.”

Trevor Wills, Director of Estates at NTU, added: “This is now a building for celebration. It can house 500+ people and host the kind of graduation ceremonies that our students deserve. But it is an important indicator of how the University can act within the Nottingham community too and provides a new civic space for the city. The construction was managed by our own internal team and they can be really proud of their work. I’m grateful to AUDE for recognition for this project – it’s a boost for the team to have this acknowledgement of work well done and particularly after this tough pandemic year.”

Umesh Desai, Director of Estates at De Montfort University and Chair-elect of AUDE, spoke on behalf of the judges: “Many of us deal with heritage projects of one kind or another and they always bring interesting challenges. The new University Hall at NTU clearly adds new options not only for the university – it makes a great graduation space - but for the city as well, playing a major role in arts and culture events. The ideal mix of the modern and the historic is a balance we all try to find, and a balance that the estates team at NTU have achieved.”

The Award was presented at the AUDE 2021 Awards via an online ceremony on Thursday 15 April.

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    About Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) was named University of the Year 2019 in the Guardian University Awards. The award was based on performance and improvement in the Guardian University Guide, retention of students from low-participation areas and attainment of BME students.

    NTU was also the Times Higher Education University of the Year 2017, and The Times and Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2018. These awards recognise NTU for its high levels of student satisfaction, its quality of teaching, its engagement with employers, and its overall student experience.

    The university has been rated Gold in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework – the highest ranking available.

    It is one of the largest UK universities. With over 33,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across four campuses, the University contributes £900m to the UK economy every year. With an international student population of more than 3,000 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook.

    The university is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable NTU to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and was awarded University of the Year in the UK Social Mobility Awards 2019.

    A total of 82% of its graduates go on to graduate entry employment or graduate entry education or training within six months of leaving. Student satisfaction is high: NTU achieved an 87% satisfaction score in the 2020 National Student Survey, above the sector average of 83%.

Published on 16 April 2021
  • Category: City Campus transformation; Press office