Architects are going head-to-head to design a landmark town centre building for the University of Huddersfield.
And the £40 million Health & Wellbeing Academy promises to be bigger and more spectacular than the award-winning Barbara Hepworth building and the iconic Oastler Building.
The university has bought the former Huddersfield Sports Centre site in Southgate and has plans to turn it into a National Health Innovation Campus.
The six-acre site, part of which is now a temporary council car park, will see a huge investment of up to £250 million making Huddersfield a national centre for health learning.
While contracts have yet to be formally exchanged on the land, the university is pressing ahead with designs for a contemporary building to stand on the prominent corner of Southgate and the A62 Leeds Road.
Huddersfield Hub can reveal that the university has engaged three firms of architects in a competition to design the 10,000 sq metre Health and Wellbeing Academy.
The new building will become home to the School of Human & Health Sciences and will be the biggest structure built by the university since the Central Services building in 1976.
Tim Hosker, the university’s director of estates and facilities, said the development was an exciting project to work on and added: “It’s a landmark building for a landmark site and is a statement of intent from the university.
“It’s a great opportunity for the university to continue to invest in the town and it’s an opportunity that came about because of the availability of the site.
“It signals our intent and also our commitment to healthcare in the North of England and nationally. We have consistently built over a number of years and now have one of the best university estates in the country.”
Kirklees Council’s Cabinet agreed to sell the site to the university last October and the deal is complete subject to contract.
While the paperwork is still to be formally signed, the university has pressed ahead with design work.
It is currently running an architectural design competition between three firms of architects – AHR of Huddersfield, Bond Bryan of Sheffield and Manchester-based ADP – to decide who will win the contract. A decision is expected in mid-May.
“Architectural design competitions are not new and they give the opportunity for the architects to engage with and involve the end user,” said Mr Hosker.
“Our School of Human & Health Sciences can steer the direction of the design and make sure we get it right first time.
“It also gives us the opportunity to look at alternative designs that match our brief and aspirations and ensure all that is maintained within budget. The university is very good at financial management of projects.”
Mr Hosker said the design of the new building had a lot to live up to with the previous success of the Barbara Hepworth Building and the Oastler Building and it had to be special.
“It’s on a prime site on the corner of Southgate and the A62. It looks up to the railway station and across to the Oastler Building,” he said.
“It needs to be striking. It will be seen from the railway station day and night. It’s in a prominent position for vision and accessibility.
“The Oastler Building was on a really important corner but the Barbara Hepworth Building topped it, winning national awards. This will be different again.”
The new building will be constructed to the WELL standard – a health safety rating – where it’s literally designed to be healthy with natural light, natural ventilation and the like. There will be landscaping and green space too.
Once completed it won’t just be for students either. There will be clinics for podiatry and physiotherapy so the public will be invited in for treatments.
An outline planning application will be submitted for the whole site with a full planning application expected for the first building some time in the middle of this year.
Construction could start in 2022 with completion due by summer 2024.