Architect returns to his University of Huddersfield roots for new £30m building design

A former University of Huddersfield student is going back to his roots as a lead architect on the new £30m Barbara Hepworth Building.

William Li graduated with a BA and Diploma in Architecture in 2009, and subsequently joined multi-award winning architecture and building consultancy practice AHR.

AHR, which has offices in Huddersfield and across the UK, was awarded the design brief for the £30m development, which will house the new school of art, design and architecture.

William is part of AHR’s delivery team for the landmark 7,500m² building, working on the project from the early design stages through to delivery.

William said:

“It’s very different to design for an area you know so well. I have walked along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal so many times that I know it like the back of my hand, but I also know what students want and what kind of space they will need, having studied there myself. That gave me invaluable insight into the project and its possibilities.

“As students, we had even used some of the existing university buildings as mock projects and this area was part of that. It has felt very surreal revisiting this in a professional capacity.”

William and the AHR team have created a complex cantilever design that complements the natural environment of the adjacent Huddersfield Narrow Canal and the city’s industrial heritage. The architects have also developed design-led solutions to maximise the potential of the sloping site which has a five-meter change in elevation, creatively using split levels to deliver two ground floors.

William added:

“Sustainability was absolutely key to this project and we designed the building layout with efficiency at the core, with the aim of achieving BREEAM Excellent status. We are working closely with engineers to maximise ventilation, ensuring that the design creates both efficient and enjoyable spaces for students and staff.

“AHR has a fantastic relationship with the University of Huddersfield having already delivered a number of successful projects, including the award-winning Oastler Building.

“We have a strong understanding of the university’s ethos and vision – aside from my personal insight, our Leeds regional director Gurminder Sanghera who is also a guest lecturer at the university, has played a significant role on the project to date.”

Located to the south of the town centre, the five-storey Barbara Hepworth Building is the first part of the redevelopment of the area around Queen Street South, which will be known as the Western Campus.

Colin Blair, director of estates and facilities at the University of Huddersfield, said:

“The essence of our estates strategy is to provide our staff and students with state-of-the-art facilities and a high-quality working environment. What better person to help design the Barbara Hepworth Building than William, one of our former students, who has excellent inside knowledge of the area and students’ requirements.”