The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Buildings at risk

The Lawns, University of Hull

Image: Hull University Alumni Association

The Scottish architectural firm Gillespie, Kidd & Coia constructed this group of five student residence halls in the 1960s. It received a RIBA Bronze Regional Award in 1968 and Listed Grade II* in 1993. The Lawns, located on parkland three and a half miles from the main university campus, represented a move towards greater informality and independence in university accommodation, with relaxed landscaping and self-service restaurant in the centre building. The most obvious and significant characteristic of The Lawns is its division of the overall population into smaller groups occupying separate buildings, the whole organised around a central lawn and each building containing a smaller courtyard.

The designers were two young architects Isi Metzstein and Andrew MacMillan, working independently within the established Scottish architects’ practice. They designed most of the firm’s work from the mid 1950s carrying out an extensive series of Roman Catholic church buildings including the celebrated St. Peter’s Seminary at Cardross, which also remains at risk (and was on C20 Buildings At Risk List in 2015). The Hull project was a pivotal one for the firm, leading to major commissions outside Scotland. The university closed the Lawns in 2019 and the 40-acre site has now been earmarked for housing and is being put up for sale. Catherine Croft commented: “While it’s good that the University is now selling the Lawns (it’s been empty and just used for police firearms training under lockdown), it’s going to be crucial that the new buyer recognises its significance and comes up with a conservation led scheme for suitable reuse— we have been asked to go on a site visit to advise, and are pleased to be able to do that before any proposals are submitted.”

Status: Still at risk

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