Space Park Leicester - where space and space-enabled technology will change the world for the better - is designed for the University of Leicester by Shepheard Epstein Hunter. The SEH masterplan and architecture transform the former John Ellis School site, opposite the listed Abbey Pumping Station Museum, and were evolved through close collaboration with stakeholders since early feasibility studies in 2015. The first two phases are now complete, and the project has been recognised as a finalist or winner in thirteen awards schemes in 2022 so far.
This phased project brings a vacant contaminated brownfield site into use, creating a community of industry, academia and students driving world-leading research, innovation and skills development in space and space-enabled sectors, alongside the 1891 Grade II listed Abbey Pumping Station (an example of 19th century technology serving the public interest) and as a close neighbour to the National Space Centre which showcases pioneering 20th century space technology. The site, formerly a location for a landfill, was capped and raised (to address flood risk) by the City’s enabling works before being taken over for development by the University. The accommodation is arranged as four and five storey pavilions (with offices and meeting rooms and two atria) alongside parkland (Ellis Meadows) to the east thereby furthest from the adjacent low-rise housing to the west and close to mature tree canopies.
Professor Martin Barstow has said: ‘We have an amazing building. It has really delivered everything we wanted in terms of the quality of the environment and the variety of meeting/interaction spaces and laboratory facilities. The beautiful atrium creates a focal point for the occupants of the building and a welcoming landing space for visitors. The facility allows us to host industry partners side-by-side with academic researchers and creates a new model for collaboration. We believe we have created something unique in the world and a number of international visitors have confirmed this in their enthusiastic and positive comments.’
Space Park Leicester is aligned with the UK’s National Space Strategy four objectives: unlocking growth in the UK space sector; collaborating internationally with partners and allies; growing the UK as a science and technology superpower and developing resilient space capabilities and services. The brownfield site was vacant after the John Ellis School on Corporation Road was closed in 2000 and demolished. The City and the University have worked closely together to re-purpose the site as a base for local and national collaboration to attract investment in the space industry to Leicester. The Shepheard Epstein Hunter masterplan and architecture were evolved through close collaboration with stakeholders since early feasibility studies in 2015. The first two phases are now complete and occupied: Phase One provides a mix of teaching, laboratory, office and collaboration space, arranged around a central atrium which encourages interaction between disciplines; Phase Two has added specialist laboratories, workshops and clean rooms capable of delivering the METEOR (Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology and Earth Observation Research) programme.
Space Park Leicester provides '... state-of-the-art, high-tech facilities for research, development and manufacturing' and is a new home for a community of university departments and '...companies covering an end-to-end capability, from satellite design and engineering, through to downstream data and its applications...' creating '...unmatched opportunities for collaboration...where industry and academia join forces'. Space Park Leicester will '...drive research excellence and application...support industrial growth in the sector and...develop the skills needed to deliver...expansion of the space (and wider) economy.'
Phase One provides a mix of teaching, laboratory, office and collaboration space; Phase Two adds laboratories, workshops and clean rooms which will deliver the METEOR (Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology and Earth Observation Research) programme and has received nearly £14 million in funding through Round 6 of Research England’s flagship capital investment scheme, the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF).
This funding is expected to leverage a further £50 million of investments in space and Earth observation (EO) research in Leicester, and the Centre '...will revolutionise how satellites are conceived, designed, operated and produced, as well as how data derived from them is interpreted and used to solve real world problems'. Photography by Martine Hamilton Knight; VMZinc / Paul Kozlowski; Bowmer+Kirkland/ Ben Clarkson, and Shepheard Epstein Hunter.