Located at the heart of the historic Cathedral City of Canterbury in Kent, ‘Palamon Court’ provides brand new bespoke accommodation for 540 students. The site lies opposite the city’s Medieval Walls (a Scheduled Ancient Monument) and adjacent to the Conservation Area, that incorporates the principle tourist sites which make up the UNESCO world heritage site.
The scale of the proposal was carefully considered – the façade angles out and away from adjacent buildings - expanding on the spatial relationship between the old and new cities, as well as being set further back to re-establish the setting of the Medieval wall with the surrounding context. The façade also reflects other aspects of the city wall which it directly faces. The key aspects are as follows:
- The form of the turrets are mirrored back into the facade treatment of the proposals within the break between the East and West wings, which forms the full height entrance foyer. This design feature has been incorporated sympathetically so as to not mimic the form of the city wall but to complement its scale
- The windows are an abstract interpretation of the arrow slits to the reverse of the turrets of the adjacent city wall as viewed when walking along the top of the wall, which is a vital pedestrian thoroughfare around the city. The dark brick slips and grey lime mortar replicate the flint and ragstone of the medieval wall. The light gold anodized metal vents reflect the limestone surrounds to the penetrations of the historic wall - thus the architecture's materiality and form has evolved from the building’s relationship to its historic context.
- Each brick pier is formed around a lightweight steel sub-frame which sits upon a cantilevered shelf which is expressed as a slim horizontal extrusion of the structure behind; allowing for a free rhythmic arrangement of piers. This cantilevers out above the public realm from the principle structural frame, creating a buffer zone at ground level between the road and the building mirroring the buffer zone on the opposite side of the road between the wall and the highway. This ‘active frontage’offers glimpses of the student facilities behind, such as a gym, leisure/lounge areas, meeting/private study rooms whilst providing a safer pedestrian route across the front of the site linking it back to the city and adjacent University buildings.
Internally, the communal floor is divided into several visually connecting ‘zones’ - glass fronted meeting pods, oversized dividers and large furniture items have been used to define work and social areas. The zones successfully blur the boundaries between work and play to offer an informal and interactive atmosphere. The design incorporates an industrial yet homely style where exposed concrete columns and soffits are combined with herringbone flooring, character oak desks and slatted timber to create a functional and welcoming space.
The building is formed around a garden square, which provides landscaped external space for the students, echoing the other intimate public spaces found elsewhere within the city, such as the cloisters of the cathedral precincts and public market squares.
Palamon Court opened ready for the new academic year in August 2017, providing students with a mixture of studio and cluster accommodation, multi-purpose lounge and study spaces, a gym and a communal dining area with a high specification kitchen where space can be hired to eat and cook.
The scheme creates a home away from home environment providing students with a stimulating and stylish escape away from the bustle of university life.