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West Downs Campus, University of Winchester, Winchester, UK

The West Downs Campus is an inspirational state-of-the-art facility for learning and teaching, home to University of Winchester’s Digital Technologies, Computing, Business and Management programmes.

The contemporary £50M design, by award-winning architects Design Engine, includes a drum-shaped 250-seat auditorium, art gallery, café, food hall, shop, library, social learning areas and teaching spaces.

The flagship development is already the holder of a number of ‘firsts’: it is among one of the first university projects in the UK to be registered to pursue WELL Certification, an accreditation scheme which recognises buildings that support and advance human health and wellbeing. Winchester is also the first UK university to secure Green finance for campus development, with a £30m loan from Triodos Bank, Europe’s leading sustainable bank.

Boasting sustainable features including a combined heat and power plant, heat recovery systems, rainwater harvesting, a green roof and solar photovoltaic panels, the building is being targeted at achieving a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.

Michael Grubb Studio’s lighting brief was to create a welcoming environment that supports wellbeing, celebrates the architectural characteristics of the building and promotes use.

Atypical of educational architecture, Michael Grubb Studio set out to illuminate the interior and exterior of this unique building with a lighting approach more often associated with hospitality venues. Working extensively to remove excessive light, flat uniformity and to avoid cold colour temperature lamp sources, the team sought to create a warm and inspiring experience for all staff, students and visitors.

The lighting scheme considered each space independently in close collaboration with the architects (DEA), the client and design team.  Michael Grubb Studio tested each type of luminaire on proposed materials and surfaces, to ensure appropriate illumination horizontally and vertically, to support the needs and use of each individual space.

Combining efficient decorative and architectural lighting, each space is fully configurable via the lighting control system, to allow for change of use and atmosphere between morning, afternoon and evening. Areas such as the Bar, Café, Lounge and Dining Room subtly adapt from functionally illuminated spaces during the day, to warm and dimly lit, relaxed spaces for evening and event uses.

Devised into two zones, the functional Library ground floor combines intelligent and efficient, integrated lighting to book shelves, desks and seating areas, with high level lighting to offer a brighter functional space during day and night use. The first floor comprises of relaxed seating and individual desk spaces, which support daylight use through sensors and the lighting control system to only use functional artificial lighting when required. Lighting dims for evening use, with lounge style lighting provided by integrated desk, wall and ambient architectural lighting.

The Auditorium, independently illuminated, is fully adjustable using pre-set and customisable scenes capable of providing functional lighting for lectures, dim lighting for events and presentations as well as stage only lighting for event use.

Consideration was given to existing ecologies and the dimly illuminated context.  The exterior lighting combines warm white light with feature window colour-changeable lighting. Lighting to the fourth floor terrace provides an impressive backdrop for events, using low-glare warm white spotlighting, intricately integrated within the building’s brise soleil. Ground level lighting provides subtle low level, functional lighting to seating, steps and access routes, while concealed architectural lighting illuminates the feature courtyard planting, colonnade structure and entrance mural, creating an enchanting external experience that invites you in.


University of Winchester

Scope of Works

University Lighting

Design Team

Design Engine Architects (DEA), Osborne, Lorne Stewart & Ridge


Design Engine Architects


Winchester, UK