Sir William Henry Bragg Building interior sketch

- Insights

19TH August 2019

“I Know What Collaboration Means and Why It’s a Good Thing, but What Does It Look Like?”

Jon Roylance

19TH August 2019


Higher Education


This was a question raised by a university’s Head of School during an early consultation meeting that led us to pause for thought.

What activities can be defined as collaborative? How many forms are there? What are the existing collaborative social networks throughout the schools? Could they be described as cultural, behavioural, transactional, and/or environmental?

It became clear that we needed to define and describe to our stakeholders what collaboration could look like by starting with the way we, as architects, collaborate with stakeholders to demonstrate its value.

The initial question and its exploration led ADP to embark on a 12-month research project supported by the University of Liverpool, a master’s student from the University of Bath, and a network of 23 HEI clients. Its aim was to understand how the briefing and design process could be optimised through improved collaboration techniques. The study highlighted the importance of changing the culture of how we engage, inform, listen to and learn from our university stakeholders.

Certain collaborative briefing techniques were adopted on our £96m Sir William Henry Bragg Building project for the University of Leeds, to help to break down barriers between groups and schools. Techniques included combined ideas workshops, which explored future academic research, as well as teaching and learning spaces. We also led activity-based briefing and “thinking through play and making”, to explore future and current needs and assets. Benchmarking and a programme of building visits enabled us to gauge reactions to a range of exemplar spaces. Most importantly of all, we took the time to listen to students, staff and visitors through open and interactive briefing workshops.

Sir William Henry Bragg Building exterior

The Sir William Henry Bragg Building combines key scientific discovery and research-led teaching with applied science and engineering activities. The collaborative briefing process resulted in the collocation of state-of-the-art research equipment in a new specialist, interdisciplinary research hub called the Bragg Centre. We were able to strategically collocate shared and bookable learning, teaching and social spaces, and developed optimised timetabling for new multidisciplinary science and engineering teaching labs. The integration of New University Academic Fellows (UAFs) will help to further foster a culture of multidisciplinary working.

Our research project led to the development of a new mobile device-based collaborative toolkit to assist the briefing process. Following this, we developed exemplar concepts of future learning spaces and academic work places in 3D, as well as VR and interactive animations to help end users explore the potential of their spaces.

The Sir William Henry Bragg Building is currently on site and due to open in 2020.

Written by:

Higher Education Sector Director
Jon Roylance

  • Email address icon
  • Telephone: 0161 238 9460

Related Articles