University of Plymouth International College

Architecture Students Unveil 'Big Tent' Project

There’s something distinctive about the courses at the University of Plymouth. Whether it’s the fresh sea air from Britain’s Ocean City invigorating nostrils, or perhaps the vast array of nearby national parks, the university has developed a fever for all things sustainable.

The university’s Foundation leading to BA (Hons) Architecture is no exception to the rule, with an ethos of sustainable design at the very heart of the course. As the 2018/2019 academic year comes to an end, the current cohort of students now have time to reflect and celebrate the completion of a full-scale sustainability project.


The Dartington ‘Big Tent’ Project

Based in the heart of the picturesque county of Devon, the iconic Dartington Hall plays host to countless weddings, events and festivals throughout the year. When the Architecture students at the University of Plymouth were asked to create a communal space for visitors to use throughout the year, they wasted no time in concepting ideas.

In true University of Plymouth fashion, the word ‘sustainable’ featured heavily in discussions from the very start, with students looking to source all materials locally and ensure the project had zero carbon-footprint.

Course lecturer Andrew Humphreys explains:

“The students wanted to understand the entire cycle, the ecology of how woodlands work, what material they needed to use and what trees they need to replant. They were delighted to identify that the building project was possible using only material sourced on the estate from the woodlands on site.”

Once the students had agreed a concept, they welcomed in four different experts to ensure they identified and rectified potential problems with their idea. Construction engineers first visited to discuss what the students need to consider ensuring the design is structurally safe. Planning consultants then explained what steps the students need to go through in order to gain planning consent. Builders entered the fray next. They consulted on the materials the students can work within a sustainable context, as well as discussing the benefits and limitations of different types of timber. Lastly, financial experts spoke to the students, discussing costs, budget and the financial implications of the project.

The final product? – A full-sized, 1:1 scale communal area, brought to life by the students, who spent a week on site building the final design with the help of local builders.

Big tent drawing architecture

Would you like to become an Eco-Architect?

Accredited by the prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the University of Plymouth’s welcomed approach to teaching Architecture is that sustainable design goes far beyond simply choosing the right material. Whilst source materials are important, as a Plymouth architecture student, you will also learn about social sustainability, economic sustainability, and become aware of the more complex aspects to consider in a building project, ensuring that any scheme you undertake has a positive impact on the community. You will be encouraged to think about how a project will look in 2030, and beyond that in 2040. This is another ideology of the university’s sustainable approach to architecture, getting you to think about the future and changing human behaviours, creating spaces and structures that are designed to be both useful now as well as in forthcoming decades.

Key facts and features

As well as capturing the attention of eco-aware students, the University of Plymouth’s Architecture course is also making a statement in the Young University league tables – ranking 1st in the UK.

Sustainable Architecture Foundation Degree UK Number_1_for_Architecture Architecture_Foundation_Degree_UK_-_Full_Scale_Design


You will have great facilities and resources at your fingertips within a vibrant community of students and researchers to help you realise your creative potential. These facilities include:

  • 3D fabrication suite and prototyping workshops for creating predictive models.
  • Workshops in woodwork, metalwork and plaster-casting.
  • Industry standard software - including Revit and ArchiCAD - to advanced simulation software such as THERM and IES in MAC and PC suites. photographic studios and dark rooms.
  • 360-degree immersive vision theatre for experimental projects.
  • Cinema with 18/35mm reel projection and 1920HD digital projectors.
  • Exclusive 24-hour library access and learning facilities including podcasts, books and electronic journals.
  • You will get your own desk and your own workstation. This will be your space for 3 years. It is not a shared space; that’s right - you get complete ownership over your creative area.


Looking ahead to 2020 and beyond

Moving forward, the opportunities for prospective Architecture students to embrace sustainable design at the University of Plymouth are huge.

This year the students embarked upon the start of a long voyage – the Compassionate Cities project. Plymouth has put itself forward to be the first ‘compassionate city’ in the UK. But what does this mean?...

The concept is based upon the holistic approach to development, understanding that urban areas should contain community-based locations for all people to meet, from all backgrounds and all demographics at all times. Over the next few years, University of Plymouth students will be challenged to create multi-purpose spaces in the heart of the city that can be used by entire families, day and night.

Mr Humphreys finished by saying:

“ We are looking for designs that become places of congregation and inhabitation. All of the projects we create are live. This means that, as a student, you will be guaranteed to be part of something that gets built; you won’t just be creating plasticine models that never become reality. Imagine that – something you design on your course becoming the focal meeting point of an entire city!”


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