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Masterplan Visions Revealed For a New Model University in Milton Keynes

United Kingdom Architecture News - Jul 4, 2019 - 00:48   2391 views

Masterplan Visions Revealed For a New Model University in Milton Keynes

OMA, Co:MK:U, Hopkins Architects, Hawkins\Brown and Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands have revealed visions for a masterplan of MK:U, a "new model" university designed to meet urgent technological and societal challenges head on in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom. 

Announced by Milton Keynes Council (MKC), Cranfield University and MK:U International Design Competition organisers, Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC), the new campus will be a new model university in the Oxford to Cambridge innovation arc. Five finalist teams are vying to win the competition and their masterplans are now available to view on the competition website

The proposed new university, which is scheduled to open to its first undergraduates in 2023, will focus on digital economy skills and practical, business-oriented courses; it also plans to offer fast-track two-year degrees. MK:U, a partnership between MKC and Cranfield University, will use the new University Quarter and the wider city as a ‘living lab’ to test out new concepts and ideas, and inspire Milton Keynes’ students and citizens. Benefitting from the last major undeveloped site in the city centre, and mixing university facilities with public spaces, MK:U will also be a destination open 24/7, welcoming the wider community.

MK:U recently announced a £30m boost from Santander, one of the biggest corporate gifts to British higher education in recent years. And MK:U’s focus on technology skills is timely — research published this month by the government’s Digital Economy Council found Britain to be creating more $1 billion technology companies than any other country apart from the US and China.

Masterplan Visions Revealed For a New Model University in Milton Keynes

OMA's proposal for MK:U. Image courtesy of OMA

The first stage of the competition, which launched in January 2019, attracted 53 team submissions comprising 257 individual firms from across the globe. The five finalist design teams who reached the second stage were asked to submit concept designs for phase one (construction budget approximately £188 m), including a masterplan and key buildings for the 10-hectare city centre site, and for 61,120 sqm of built area.

The designs, along with physical models and videos, will also go on display in a free exhibition, Milton Keynes: A Journey to 2050, between 4–7 July 2019 in Middleton Hall, thecentre:mk, Milton Keynes. 

MKC is encouraging public feedback on the concepts, either by comment card or email to [email protected]. Feedback will be passed to the twelve competition jurors who will meet to interview the teams and select the winner later in the month.

MK:U is one of the flagship projects of the strategic MK Futures 2050 Programme, which was set up to enable the city to grow and flourish — MK being the fastest-growing city in the UK and expected to support a population of half a million by 2050.

See the proposals with their short project info below:

Masterplan Visions Revealed For a New Model University in Milton Keynes

Masterplan Visions Revealed For a New Model University in Milton Keynes

Masterplan Visions Revealed For a New Model University in Milton Keynes

Images courtesy of Co:MK:U

Co:MK:U — WilkinsonEyre and AECOM with Spaces that Work, Mecanoo, dRMM, Publica, Contemporary Art Society and Tricon

Team Co:MK:U has been inspired by the potential for MK:U to "make a great city greater", a place intrinsically of Milton Keynes, where nature and city life are brought together offering qualities to fulfil the promise of Derek Walker’s original ‘City Club’ vision; sociable and welcoming to all.

The masterplan celebrates the spatial hierarchy of the city’s geometry, the planning grid generating an array of mixed-use building blocks for living and learning, predominantly low rise with residential buildings giving accents of height and three higher towers becoming beacons in the skyline to signify this new, exciting 21st Century institution. The Forum is not a single building but a clearing, a space to gather, in the heart of MK:U. The square—Avebury Square—is framed north and south by two public buildings. Each building across MK:U takes a subtly individual identity giving MK:U a built environment of distinctive and varied architectural character.

Masterplan Visions Revealed For a New Model University in Milton Keynes

Masterplan Visions Revealed For a New Model University in Milton Keynes

Masterplan Visions Revealed For a New Model University in Milton Keynes

Images courtesy of Hawkins\Brown

Hawkins\Brown with KCAP, Grant Associates, BuroHappold Engineering and Sam Jacob Studio

The original Milton Keynes Masterplan was likened to a net thrown across the English countryside, a layer of woven connections that mediates with the landscape. "We have taken this metaphor, the campus as a network of connections embedded within a landscape, to inform a masterplan designed around a series of gardens, courts and vistas."

"Our design brings people together in a series of flexible and deliverable, mixed-use buildings organised around a central spine. This generous landscaped promenade, on which every building has an address will become the beating heart of the campus – a place where memories are created and life-long friendships made."

Masterplan Visions Revealed For a New Model University in Milton Keynes

Masterplan Visions Revealed For a New Model University in Milton Keynes

Masterplan Visions Revealed For a New Model University in Milton Keynes

Images courtesy of Hopkins Architects

Hopkins Architects with Prior + Partners, Expedition Engineering, Atelier Ten, GROSS. MAX., Buro 4, RLB Schumann, GRFN, Caneparo Associates, QCIC, Nick Perry Associates, Access=Design, Cordless Consultants, Sandy Brown Associates, FMDC and Tricon

MK:U presents a unique opportunity to re-think higher education by bringing new academic and commercial activity, jobs and social life to the town centre. MK:U’s identity and sense of place is established from the outset by creating a ‘shop window’ along Avebury Boulevard. A bold new urban frontage adopts the format of the original MK vision with calm orthogonal buildings surrounded by greenery. This creates an open permeable quarter rather than an enclosed campus with strong and clear connections to surrounding developments and residential courtyards that open on to the public realm.

In this Learning City, a Living Lab approach delivers high value and high environmental performance. Buildings are simple and cost effective. Based on orthogonal grids with integrated engineering, MK:U’s buildings and places can be easily maintained and upgraded to suit future needs, are human scaled, spatially efficient and technically robust; a smart university for a smart city.

Masterplan Visions Revealed For a New Model University in Milton Keynes

Masterplan Visions Revealed For a New Model University in Milton Keynes

Masterplan Visions Revealed For a New Model University in Milton Keynes

Images courtesy of Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands

Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands with Architecture 00, Heyne Tillett Steel, Hoare Lea, Bradley-Hole Schoenaich Landscape Architects, Ken Baker, Steer, Iceni, Abell Nepp, Mark London, FMDC, People Friendly Design, PFB Construction Management and FiD

Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, in collaboration with architects and and landscape architects Architecture00, BHSLA and Ken Baker, plus a talented consultant team, have created a new university for Milton Keynes that harnesses MK:U’s positive, progressive energy to breathe new life into the city. 

Their vision for MK:U looks back to the joy of Milton Keynes’ original masterplan and forward to the smart, sustainable city that it wants to become with a new creative quarter that is walkable, diverse and attractive to everyone. Spreading out across the northern half of the site, along Avebury Boulevard, this new quarter will feel alive from the start, and an incremental growth strategy will harness public and private funding. The scheme embraces a model for learning that is interdisciplinary and exploratory, with a culture of entrepreneurship embedded within the design and construction process. And its public spaces will bring meadows into the city, alongside courtyards providing flexible and surprising inside/outside encounters.

Masterplan Visions Revealed For a New Model University in Milton Keynes

Masterplan Visions Revealed For a New Model University in Milton Keynes

Masterplan Visions Revealed For a New Model University in Milton Keynes

Images courtesy of OMA

OMA with BuroHappold Engineering, Planit-IE, Nicholas Hare Architects, Carmody Groarke, Galmstrup, Approved Consultant Services and Russell Partnership

MK:U represents a key moment in Milton Keynes ongoing evolution – the introduction of a place to learn, meet and live, in a context so far dominated by business and commerce. Our design proposal opts to inverse the central district’s standard block structure: the perimeter typically reserved for parking becomes a zone for building which “frames” the space typically reserved for buildings to become the university yard. 

The yard is the ambiance most typically associated with university life: the social space which binds the elements of the educational process together. Existing independently from any specific academic focus, the yard is as fitting for a university of “literature and the arts” as for one of “business and engineering”. Perhaps most significantly, it caters to an expectation of history, which, for a university without an established track-record, to be built in a town less than fifty years old, could prove of eminent importance.


Each finalist team will receive an honorarium of £30,000 for their competition work, a technical panel report will be supplied to the jury. The competition is being run under EU procurement rules and to current UK legislation.

MK:U will be delivered in three phases and will complete within 15 years, when the fully-fledged university will serve 15,000 students.

Located at the heart of the Oxford to Cambridge innovation arc and just 30 minutes from London by train, MK, now known as a Smart City, has excellent connectivity; its proximity to the M1 motorway and rail network means twenty million people can reach it within 60 minutes.

> via MRC