The Story so far:
In 2013, following years of discussion, the Officer team wanted to show senior University staff that a good Students’ Union building would enable students to have a better time at University, and that it would benefit the campus overall.
The Activities Officer and the President at the time took the Vice-Chancellor and other senior managers from the University to see Leeds and Sheffield Students’ Union buildings in order to show them the potential for improvement in Nottingham. After continued discussion, it was then agreed by the University Executive Board that there would be a £15m investment into Portland to create a brilliant building for students.
Because Portland is such a busy building (sometimes attracting 18,000 through it a day!) there was no way of closing to do the development. Instead, the work was phased over 4 years, mainly over summer periods.
So what was wrong with Portland, and who was consulted in making changes?
Portland is a big and a pretty important building, so we needed to make sure we had some solid research to back up any decisions we made. Back in 2014, a company called Crowd DNA carried out an independent research project, working with hundreds of participants to discover what Nottingham students would like from their Students’ Union building. The research was so good that it won an award. Not only did it include current students at the time, but also researched sixth-form students too. That way, it included the needs of the next University generation.
What were the findings?
Time in Portland was largely only functional for students – grabbing a coffee, using a meal card, picking up a meal deal. Students tended to go to other places as a social hub, and said that campus lacked a focal point for student-ownership and socialisation. Furthermore, the building as it was didn’t make sense in its layout – services were in random locations around the building, it was difficult to navigate and it lacked social meeting spaces.
It was decided that the primary focus for Portland should be to create a building that would meet the needs of students outside of teaching. Whether that’s meeting your society, going for a coffee with a friend, or finding a quiet spot for catching up on uni work – it all needed to be possible in Portland.
What has happened so far?
We’ve had Phases 1 and 2, which has seen the introduction of:
- Front entrance extension and the big screen
- Back of house staff office spaces
- Peace garden (in front of URN)
Hopefully you will have noticed these changes so far, whether you’re a student group using the Studio Live, are looking forward to summers spent in the Mooch terrace, or enjoy having some extra study space in the Studio. These phases were deliberately in areas towards the edge of the building to allow us time to get the central areas right.
So what next?
This summer some really big changes are happening…
Portland Hill landscaping
You’ve seen the new screen at the front of the building. This will tie into the landscaping of Portland Hill which includes a new hard-standing pavilion by the bus stop, leading down to stairs that act as amphitheatre-style seating, scattered with water features to make the place look extra wonderful. This will create a great screening destination for events; whether that’s an outdoor cinema night, big sports events, or graduations.
C Floor Welcome Zone
The biggest change internally will be the new Welcome Zone. Here, Blackwell’s are relocating to elsewhere in the Portland Building (more on that later), and in this area at the front of the building will become the new Welcome Zone.
The main SU Reception will move to this area, and there will be extra reception desk spaces for anyone who needs to use these ad-hoc. Around this area will also be lots of seating so that you have places to sit and meet friends, along with power points so that you can get on with work too.
There’s also going to be a mezzanine where the SU Officers will be located, so they will be easier to find and more visible to all students.
B Floor Retail Zone
As your SPAR shop and Boots are on B floor, we are continuing in the feedback that the building needed to make sense by having similar services located near one another. In our new Portland, B floor becomes the retail space for the building.
Blackwell’s will move to where your Student Advice team currently are, with a revamp to the entrance through the doors at the back of the building. Along this corridor will be Unitemps, Accommodation, SU Clothing, Hair and Beauty, and the potential for exciting pop-up businesses too.
B Floor Café
If, in all of this, you were thinking “Hang on, if Blackwell’s is moving, where will I get my coffee?” then do not be alarmed. A brand-new fabulous and spacious café will be opening at the end of the B Floor corridor. There will be a branded coffee offering – as soon as we get that 100% signed and confirmed, we will be able to share which coffee company that will be. But, the good news I can share is that there will be more employment opportunities for students in this coffee shop.
These images are only indicative – the actual design of the coffee shop will be different – but hopefully this shows it will be large, with lots of seating for catch-ups with friends.
Students’ Union Advice Centre
The Students’ Union Advice Centre will be moving into a new space along from The Hub on C Floor. This offers a location that is both visible and accessible, but also more discreet if a student needs the space to be more confidential.
This is being loosely termed ‘the Future Zone’- because that’s what D Floor will be about. Careers and Employability will be here and so will Campaigns and Alumni Relations. So, if you’re thinking about your next steps after University, this is the place to go.
Sounds fancy, but it’s actually very practical. Ever been on the new side of the building on D or E floor and thought “I really want a Chicken Joe’s”? But wait – you have to go down the stairs and up the stairs on the other side of the building. It’s a right faff. Well, as of September 2017 you will never have to face this dilemma again because a bridge going over the top of the Atrium which will link D Floor near Careers with the Food Court on E Floor.
The Atrium will have a bit of a re-vamp. Architects are looking at how to solve the problem of it being a fridge in the winter, and a greenhouse in the summer. There are also going to be more games in here for use during the day. Think table tennis and pool tables. These things will be moved at the end of the day and for events so that activity space here is still retained for student groups.
That’s Phase 3. But what’s coming in Phase 4?
Loads more is still to be done in Phase 2 (Summer 2018!)The plans are currently being designed (student groups in Portland and staff are designing their spaces with our architects), and as soon as they’re ready, we will share them.
But, as an idea of what’s happening there’s going to be:
- A ‘Media Zone’ where NSTV, URN, Impact and CD & Record Library will all be located together on C Floor
- A ‘Get Involved Zone’ where you’ll easily find services including Events, Health and Safety, Societies and Sports, Sponsorship, Volunteering, Karnival and TEC PA & Lighting (we said the new location of services would make more sense!)
- A ‘Faith Zone’ on A Floor near the Chaplaincy, leading out into the new peace gardens. There will be activity space here for faith groups and areas for quiet reflection.
- A new dance and performance studio on C Floor, with retractable seating for shows.
Phew! That’s a whole lot of building to be getting on with and whole lot of changes to get excited about. If you have any questions or comments, Ismail and I sit on the Project Management Board for Portland, so let us know.
- Becky Player, Activities Officer