Sibson Building

Penoyre & Prasad, Canterbury, 2017


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The building houses the university's business and mathematics schools 

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  • The building houses the university    
  • The building is set back with a high proportion of glass and dark colours to create the sense of a woodland understorey    
  • Emphasis has been placed on daylighting and connected views into the woodland setting    
  • The curved exterior    
  • The building sits in a woodland setting    
  • The reception area    
  • The building has a concourse at its heart, conceived as a woodland glade with dappled light from above     
  • Seating area    
  • Particular emphasis has been placed on daylighting and connected views into the woodland setting as ways of reducing energy use and promoting wellbeing    
  • The facility has three lecture theatres    
  • Site plan    
  • Landscape plan    
  • Ground floor plan    
  • Floor plans    
  • Section AA    
  • External wall detail section    

A new building for the University of Kent provides dedicated facilities and a distinct identity for its maths and business schools.

The Sibson Building’s W-shaped plan is simple and straightforwardly arranged as two separate wings for the two separate departments, meeting in the middle around an atrium and public café. Both the maths and business sections have their own distinct reception desks and entrances, in addition to the café’s communal entrance.

This sits to the north-west of Kent’s compact main campus, north of Canterbury city centre, in an area adjacent to Brotherhood Wood, where Park Wood Road, leading to the Pavilion sports centre.

Where it faces Park Wood Road it sits atop, and at points cantilevers over, a black stone ground floor, here playing the part of rusticated base. The façade is designed to mimic a view through trees with its irregularly spaced fins and windows. Many of the otherwise simple seating spaces inside are enhanced by large areas of glazing looking out to the wood, views restricted to smaller glimpses in lecture theatres so as not to be a distraction.

Central to the new building, quite literally, are the three lecture theatres, which sit at the top and the bottom of the W. The ‘collaborative lecture theatre’, sitting to the north above the medium theatre, is an attempt to break down the rigid form common to lecture theatres, opting for a series of angled desks rather than long runs of seating. Both the collaborative and large theatre to the south are articulated by an impressive concrete ‘hand’ structure, looking like the veins of a leaf, that allows them to achieve their wide, unobstructed span.

The two dips of the W become small ‘arrival hubs’ and breakout spaces, which are articulated by timber-lined voids that mirror the curve of the exterior.

The Sibson Building is designed to minimise energy demands while providing excellent internal comfort. The form and orientation of the building were designed in response to the climate. Building envelope U-values and airtightness are significantly better than required by the Building Regulations, and most spaces are naturally ventilated. The central atrium acts as the lungs for the adjoining naturally ventilated seminar spaces. Exposed concrete soffits and secure night-time ventilation external openings avoid the need for mechanical cooling for most spaces.

Particular emphasis has been placed on daylighting and connected views into the woodland setting as ways of reducing energy use and promoting wellbeing. The distinctive arrangement of vertical fins on the façade was developed to optimise the balance between functional daylighting and solar gain.


  • Begun: Jun 2015
  • Completed: Jan 2017
  • Floor area: 8,200m2
  • Sector: Education
  • Total cost: £26.7M
  • Procurement: JCT Design and Build contract, two-stage (Penoyre & Prasad novated to the contractor for Stage F-L)
  • CO2 Emissions: 13.8kg/m2/year
  • Address: Parkwood Road, Canterbury, CT2 7FS, United Kingdom

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