The heart of Cardiff

The heart of Cardiff

Situated within Cardiff’s ground breaking Central Square development and a minutes’ walk from Cardiff Central station, Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media & Culture provides a highly professional collaborative learning environment.

Housed off a traditional university campus setting, the School actively chose to co-locate at 2 Central Square adjacent to the new BBC Cymru Wales facilities. In joining the heart of a vibrant media environment in the city centre, the School sought to strengthen the student experience and add significant value to student professional development and employability skills. The School’s decision transformed 2 Central Square into an interactive, creative and professional learning space.

With the Central Square development led by commercial developer Rightacres and supported by Foster & Partners, McCann & Partners, Arup and ISG plc, IBI Group’s architecture and interior design experts delivered an extensive Category B design project fully supporting the School’s pedagogic mission and objectives. The School occupied its new premises in time for the start of the 2018-2019 academic year.

Quote: “The School was ambitious & forward-thinking in taking a Foster-designed commercial space and re-imagining how higher education activities could flourish there. IBI Group were not faced with a straightforward project, and they did well to interpret client needs and worked closely with the base build team to coordinate their efforts and requirements – it was truly collaboration at its best.” Project Director, Rightacres Property 

Quote: “This project was based on a genuinely honest, communicative and productive ‘one team’ approach from base build upward. Everyone really understood the timescales involved and whilst there was a relaxed communicative ethos, everyone worked hard and productively to deliver the project on time and to budget.” Operations Director, ISG plc 

Design for a vibrant professional learning environment

Ranked second in the UK for the quality and impact of its research activity, in 2020 the School celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. Established in the 1970s as a pioneer in journalism education and now with close to 800 students, the School offers a wide range of undergraduate, taught postgraduate and research degree programmes highly-rated in independent surveys.

Over recent decades the School had been located within the Bute Building on Cardiff University’s Cathays Park campus. Designed in the early twentieth century to house a technical college and used as a filming location for the BBC’s Doctor Who drama series, the Grade II-listed neoclassical revival-style Bute Building remains an important element in Cardiff University’s campus estate. 

Quote: “Our former home was a very impressive older building on a leafy campus. For a School on the cutting-edge of developments in a brave new digital world, however, our new home is much more closely aligned with our priorities going forward.” Stuart Allan, Head of School, School of Journalism, Media & Culture

Space within the School’s former home was insufficient and lacked flexibility. Interaction and creative conversations were not easily facilitated nor could differing operational activities and facilities be conveniently co-located. The School worked closely with staff and students before and during the design consultation phase to ensure that expectations of contemporary learning and social spaces were fully captured and fed into the design process. Careful planning also ensured that central campus facilities including IT and library services were built into the Central Square design brief.  

The School had also conducted extensive evaluation of exemplary buildings designed for other Schools of Journalism around the world. The School fully understood the high expectations held by young people and wanted the learning and professionalisation experience of students to be underpinned by the best possible environment available. The School made a strong business case for investing in the design of spaces and interiors that invited students to make effective use of them.   

The design brief

At the heart of the brief, our client requirements centred upon the creation of a real-world dynamic media industry learning environment focused upon developing highly professional news creation, production, curation and broadcast skills. Across three floors with a total 3900m², IBI Group designed a diverse range of formal, informal, experiential and vocational learning spaces.

A central element in IBI Group’s design response involved deploying our design technology systems. The IBI Group project team utilised Autodesk Revit to ensure that the fit-out project for 2 Central Square was fully transparent, consistent and aligned with all stakeholder design, construction and maintenance requirements.  Development of a fully coordinated Revit model between all design disciplines supported user engagement, where the team were able to generate fully loaded 3 dimensional drawings of all areas.  And working alongside the clients’ furniture provider, IBI Group were able to model specific furniture which better supported user group understanding of the space and the flexibility in use.

This also had a crucial contribution to the effective project management including clash detection and effective cost & risk management. BIM and asset management methodologies are integrated within IBI Group’s certified quality management system and are managed as an integral component of project delivery. 

IBI Group’s approach incorporated technically-advanced design features to not only enable students to excel in their chosen subject, but to further raise the profile of the School as a world-leading centre of journalism. A 300-seat lecture theatre with a glazed façade speaks directly to the principles of transparency, inclusion and collaboration, whilst a part-traditional library and seminar room area integrates contemporary design for group working and collaboration space.

IBI Group’s Head of Learning+ and School of Journalism Project Director Richard Golledge notes the importance of opening the design of teaching space to create a breakout area for students to filter into from surrounding rooms. “The central hub is an interactive and collaborative multi-functional space, with visual connectivity and proximity to surrounding newsrooms, TV and radio studios. It also provides the ‘wow’ factor for visitors and prospective students”.  Within the hub, a variety of social learning spaces enable working environments for specific needs or tasks. The hub also features soft seating, flexible furniture and media displays for events, presentations, and demonstrations of degree portfolio work.

Media editing suites equipped with state-of-the-art technology facilities, postgraduate research space and ‘innovation lab’ environments were included within the brief. A double-height mezzanine within the large ground floor area includes a ‘social stair’ providing flexible space for media production, public debates and outreach workshops. Additional study space for quiet individual learning is housed beneath the mezzanine area. Complementing these teaching and learning spaces, contiguous space was designed to foster social and public engagement.

IBI Group’s design approach focused on creating modern social spaces fully acknowledging that collaborative social learning is increasingly surpassing more traditional self-directed modes of study. 2 Central Square also contains learning spaces intentionally designed to be compact in nature, adding to the sense of real-world newsroom environments.  IBI Group also encouraged a strong visual connection to the external environment providing access to the surrounding development as well as daylight. Where that was not possible, strategic use of colour was introduced to help natural wayfinding and identity, but also to stimulate the mind and create a vibrant interior.

Quote: “We’ve never before felt so socially engaged with each other. Not only can we present ourselves to stakeholders in a fundamentally different way, we’ve deliberately mixed disciplines and people in our new space to prompt creative conversations that were previously not easily realised.” Stuart Allan, Head of School, School of Journalism, Media & Culture

Adding value to the student experience and to world-class teaching and research

The School of Journalism, Media & Culture has undergone a profound shift. 2 Central Square looks like contemporary commercial real estate, but fully enables the delivery of world-leading higher education, research and industry engagement co-located with leading Welsh media and creative sector organisations. Whilst the School and BBC Cymru Wales enjoy a strong working relationship thanks to a long-standing programme of professional training & journalism internships, the new School building acts as a shared resource, enabling a continued exchange of knowledge and experience.

But benefits for the School don’t lie just in co-location, in new build, and in proximity to major public transport networks. It’s new home in 2 Central Square delivers modern learning environments required by the subject area including smart integrated technology-led facilities, open line-of-sight collaborative areas, and flexible multi-purpose spaces for journalism and media production.

Quote: “Two Central Square is transparent, literally and conceptually. Not only does the exterior glass façade create a great first impression, the design and layout of interior space enables us to maintain it. Students and visitors can see what we do and how we do it. Our new building is open, inclusive and there’s a real buzz. We see more diversity in our engagement with industry and in our interactions with each other. There is no difficulty at all in persuading prospective students that our School delivers a world-class experience.” Stuart Allan, Head of School, School of Journalism, Media & Culture

Quote: “Two Central Square is a fantastic facility that is conducive to outstanding teaching and learning. It has a range of facilities including newsrooms, broadcasting suites and recording booths - at times you forget you are at University and not at the BBC! Unrivalled location next to the BBC and Media Wales fosters a sense of professionalism and will enable close ties to these organisations.” MA Political Communication student

Quote: “The School's new Two Central Square location is strategic and ideal for journalism students to commute to and from their story locations fast enough to meet deadlines. Also, with BBC Cymru Wales just next door, the School sits in the middle of a professional journalism environment giving students something to aspire towards.” MA International Journalism student