The Percy Gee Building houses the Students Union of the University of Leicester. It was one of the first of several mid 20C buildings which created the present character of the University. The architect T Shirley Worthington cut the building into the steeply sloping site, and so it had 26 different floor levels over five storeys and no lifts. The £17m 2008/11 transformation project changed the Percy Gee into a thriving multi-purpose Union building at the entrance to the campus.
A social hub in an atrium at the core of the building, now called The Square, has been created by the addition of a new glazed roof in the middle of the original U shape of the building, and sits over a new double height space forming the O2 Academy Leicester. The roof is supported on curved glulam timber beams in a wishbone arrangement, supported on steel trees, which allowed freedom of where new columns could be placed. The Square opens onto a west facing terrace two floors above University Road overlooking the mature trees opposite, reached by a grand external staircase. The experience of entering the building – and the campus – has been greatly improved. A second new 'slot atrium', over four-storeys and adjacent to The Square, running north-south across the width of the building, gives hugely improved access for people with disabilities, and allows anyone using the building to easily understand its layout. The transformed 9,000m2 building (aiming to achieve ‘BREEAM Excellent’) was occupied by the SU throughout the 64 weeks of the main contract works, and now enjoys much increased student and visitor use – the SU has recorded 12,000 visits in one week. It accommodates multiple uses: shops, offices, restaurant, coffee bar, Scholar bar, resource centre, welfare and clinic, gym and meeting rooms.
The project was recognised in over 20 awards schemes, including 'Best Higher Education Building' and 'Building of the Year'. More information here and here.