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Plans For Newcastle Student Tower

Student living landlords UNITE, have developed this new proposal for Newcastle Upon Tyne in North East England.

The project if approved by the council will see the building of 224 new student flats with 802 bedrooms and 1,377 square metres of ground floor retail and a tall residential building of 47.35m in height.

The scheme effectively rebuilds an entire side of Railway Street in a number of blocks ranging from 15 to 6 floors that fit into the historical footprints along the street and are separated by a number of zones, each earmarked for a different use.

The design by the Ian Derby Partnership is typical for UNITE and their student accommodation right down to the monolithic shape, cheap panelled cladding and small windows that save on the cost of glazing and allow cut price construction - a mystical approach given the developer has identified it as a "gateway site offering high visual impact solution".

Adding aesthetic insult to injury, the developer identifies such buildings as the Cruddas Park flats as part of the urban grain in the area showing the standard of nearby architectural deficiency that it has to fit into.

At ground level the retail units that bound Railway Street will have colonnaded detailing of sandstone that reference nearby railway underpasses whilst decked areas will be clad in recycled plastic because it's "a more sustainable solution than wood".

They've also come up with the idea of having slogans painted on the southern elevation like a "Wall of Wisdom". This could be made up of phrases parents tell children before going to university. If they want to make it truly realistic these could include "Don't take drugs!" and "Use a condom!"

The designers claim the cladding quality will be "consistent with the standard set by Newcastle College". For example, Block A, the tallest, will be mostly grey projecting over white with the windows and panelling between them forming horizontal ribbons which contrast with the verticality they've tried to design in.

Bay windows are a recurring feature on the corners of many of the blocks as is the constant referencing to Victorian railways through the recurring use of industrial colours of white, grey and brown with the odd splash of red to add a vertical line.

As with anything, in architecture you get what you pay for but you also get what the local council aspires to as something of a quality they don't like won't get through the planning system.

Student blocks don't normally have huge budgets and this is clearly reflected in the finish of Railway Street - UNITE are simply responding to some of the financial demands made by their business. However comparing the quality of this to phase 2 of the Plaza in Leeds and the infamous UNITE Grand Central in Liverpool shows the impact on what's built as being dictated in part by what the council will let someone get away with.

Whilst the changes at street level with lines of shop and an animated frontage are welcome for such a rundown area, the idea that a proposal like this could ever be seriously proposed as a gateway in a major British city shows the total lack of ambition on the part of the council.

Article Related buildings:

Railway Street Building A

Railway Street Building A
The Plaza phase II

The Plaza phase II
Unite Grand Central

Unite Grand Central
Railway Street Newcastle Upon Tyne
Railway Street Newcastle Upon Tyne