Meet the designer behind UCA’s brand new fashion school in Epsom.
Having been appointed to design and fit out the University for the Creative Arts’ (UCA) new fashion school in Epsom, our designer, Sofie, talks about the details that are set to define the learning environment for emerging talent. Here, she describes the vision as we get ready to make it a reality.
Setting the style
The Wells building in Epsom is UCA’s first satellite building, and it’s set to be the flagship space, setting the style for the university’s future development. A former office space, it’s currently worse for wear, so our job will be to strip back the space and rebuild all internal elements, including the facades to provide a ‘face lift’ – it’s an exciting opportunity to create something unique.
The outside of the building will be cleaned and painted, replacing the windows with modern crenelated versions, as well as large floor-to-ceiling windows on the ground floor. The idea is to create street presence and intrigue for what’s going on inside.
The brief was to create a palette that was transferrable across the campus, but that could also be curated to the specifics of each building and the different faculty identities. Our approach was to use the largest surfaces for naturally textured materials in low saturated tones, introducing colour and vibrancy in concentrated areas to keep high impact.
Defying convention with intent
As you pass into the reception area, we’re going to pull the brick finish into the interior and have a minimal but intentional use of biophilia. Nothing is fussy – it’s all clean lines and honest, natural finishes. It’s purposely created not to feel like a corporate space, but it’s not a typical education environment either.
There’s a coffee bar in the middle of the ground floor with areas to collaborate and socialise. This is very much an environment that’s about removing divides between staff and students, that respects students and prepares them for transitioning into a professional environment after their degree.
Part of the reason for the large windows is so we can bring in a visual merchandising aspect to showcase partnerships with the likes of Hermes and Moncler, who have agreed to donate former window displays. The design concept is to have this very muted colour palette in the structure of the building, contrasting with bold colours in displays so they deliver high impact. It’s about making the work pop.
At back, there’s an informal bleachers seating area, which can be used for presentations, discussions, group project work and more. There’s a variety of seating options, so students can sit, lie down – whatever suits them. It’s a real move away from conventional learning spaces.
Where the work happens
The first floor is going to be a hybrid space with informal lecture rooms with foldable walls to maximise flexibility. All the furniture is colourful, but not in a primary way, and the structure is characterised by soft timbers and acoustic products for a sensory experience.
The second floor has two fashion studios separated by a central band of shared amenities. Meeting rooms, phone booths, lockers and refreshments are equidistant to both studios. These two spaces have sewing machines around the perimeter and pattern tables in the middle. They have a calm atmosphere and are very much a blank canvas for students to bring their work to life in. The students will all have Capisco chairs, which are highly ergonomic for optimum comfort.
The space can also transform into an event area complete with a catwalk, with functional elements hidden by curtains all the way around the edge and adding director chairs for the audience.
The whole space is aligned with what you might expect if you had graduated and gone into a fashion house. I don’t think it should be much different; I think the experience of learning your craft should be as elevated as the real thing. It’s nice to be part of something special.