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Town House wins Stirling Prize but is it working for students?

By Elizabeth Wiredu Nov 2, 2021
Student sitting at a table revisingStudent revising at the Town House Photo credit: Elizabeth Wiredu

KU’s Town House was recently awarded the RIBA Stirling architecture prize and celebrated as “a progressive new model for the design of higher education buildings”. However some people have mixed feelings about the functionality and working environment of the library.

On accessibilty the building brought mixed reviews. Disability rights activist David Gillon tweeted that the Town House is a: “place of stairs and huge bleachers, intended as a social, teaching and performance place, but from wheelchair height I see a space that excludes, isolates, and exhibits wheelchair users as a separate species.”

However software engineer Qais Al-Hatmi said: “I like the way it’s structured. It’s fairly accessible. I mean in terms of accessibility there are elevators. Each floor has ample seating.” 

Business management student Zino Wagner agreed: “The Town House is wheelchair friendly and each floor has elevators.”

“The Town House is not super accessible,” said Ismail Serrai, a member of the public. “This place needs an easier way for students to move around the building.”

According to KU website the architect’s brief was “to transform the learning experience for our students by building a contemporary library and performance space, connecting the traditionally hushed atmosphere of a library with the energy and sound of rehearsals taking place.”

However, today’s learning spaces rely on stable wi-fi, and Serrai pointed out that the wi-fi in the Town House can be slow and difficult to connect to.

“We have been here all afternoon, and we haven’t managed to connect to the wi-fi,” Serrai continued. 

Many students have also voiced their complaints about the current Town House hours, which are currently 8:30am-9pm on weekdays and 10am-5pm on weekends. 

Pharmaceutical science student Nisrine Larguat said: “The Town House doesn’t open for 24 hours until November, which is an issue for me because I just live around and I want to study here for the whole night.

“The current opening times are not helpful for a student that has a lot of work to do,” Larguat continued.

Dance student Lucy Beadle agreed: “I think it’d be nicer if it was open a little bit later. Just because I know some people enjoy working later at night. I think it could open a bit longer into the evening just to accommodate other people.”

However, Beadle makes sure to highlight the value of the Town House: “My entire class can fit around this table and we could work together for hours.” 

From Monday November 8 2021 until Sunday December 19 2021, Town House will be open 24 hours a day for study-only service.

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