A vibrant new student accommodation scheme successfully delivered on a complex city centre site with a series of challenges to overcome.




Cassidy Group
Residential - Student

Following the submission of a planning application (with a scheme by another architect), the client instructed maber to redesign the internal arrangement to accommodate more bed spaces; to attain best value of the site. 

The challenge was to find a solution that would keep the development within the external envelope proposed as part of the original design, whilst taking into account the complex site conditions.  These included existing caves (access to be retained), the location of existing structural support, a constrained site bound by city centre roads and an adjacent Listed building.


The site of the previous ‘York House’ had remained undeveloped since its demolition in 2015 which had left the 1960’s ground floor concrete slab insitu. Previously home to the Nottingham Brewery, hidden below the surface are a series of caves, some of which were used as air raid shelters during the Second World War.  To the South-west corner a Grade II Listed Watson Fothergill pub ‘The Rose of England’ is also present.


Designed as a series of stepped blocks surrounding three courtyards, the massing of the design presented many challenges on the sloping site.  

Given the complex nature of the site, a multitude of structural solutions were required to support the intricate arrangement of blocks.  The existing concrete slab was reused to site a nine storey block, supported on concrete columns dropped through the caves to bedrock below, it required a lattice work of steel transfer structure together with a hybrid hot rolled steel and LGS frame solution.


Other blocks abutted existing buildings, were positioned over shallow caves/shafts or required retaining walls to support the existing public footpaths. These were supported by a web of pile and ring beams threaded between caves and poor ground. Additional blocks were treated more traditionally with strip foundations and retaining walls.  A staircase situated between blocks had to be ‘suspended’ from the steel frame due to the proximity of the shallow caves near the surface, meaning a ground-bearing arrangement could not be achieved.

Further challenges also arose due to the demolition of existing concrete structures not cleared by the original demolition in 2015.


Aesthetically, the blocks were designed to be similar in style, with high parapets, deep window reveals and varying lengths of vertical glazing elements.  The five blocks have been visually defined by the colour of their brickwork, ranging from cream to grey and compliment the surrounding vernacular.  


Large areas of curtain walling provide views into and out of the active communal areas of the scheme, including the gym, meeting spaces, study areas and living / dining areas.  Views are provided across the city and into the courtyard spaces.

Feature panels of recessed black brickwork part the primary blocks, creating visual interest.