Renovated University Technical College breathes life into seaport town

Newhaven’s recently renovated University Technical College building is an inspiring new landmark that brings vivid architectural and educational vitality to a long-struggling seaport town.

This former hub of boat and train repair, along a stretch of the River Ouse leading to Newhaven Harbour, stands as both an homage to the workshop industry of the town’s Victorian past, and a fresh symbol of promise for today’s local youth.

Built on the site of the old Marine and Carpenter’s workshops, and offering state of the art facilities to 14 to 19-year-olds wanting to study subjects including engineering, science, technology or maths, the college exemplifies architectural ingenuity and the values of a community eager to re-invigorate its identity and provide exciting opportunities for a new generation of students.

The building’s architects, HKS, are an international firm known for their striking modern designs that highlight clean aesthetics and a precision of volume and line. Their aim was to incorporate the buildings’ engineering history into the design, creating a symbol for the focus of the facility’s curriculum.

The structure serves as ‘a canvas to showcase its past,’ according to the UTC’s designer, Alfonso Padro. The large workshop spaces are filled with light ushering in from big windows that frame varying views of the town and waterfront.

Integral to the interior design and educational experience of the new college are a series of large-scale images by architectural documentary photographer Carlotta Luke.

Nine photographs recording the transformation of the building, and reminding students, faculty and visitors of the original rich utility of the workshops, are permanently installed in communal spaces and stairwells of the building’s interior.

This work, created over a two-year period during which Luke pursued on-site documentation, provides a glimpse into the substantial infrastructure of the original building, while deepening the artistic aesthetic of the architectural adaptation.

These photographs celebrate the power and strength of the building’s elaborately configured steel skeleton, and include glimpses of the original brick arches and windows.

They are artfully incorporated expressions of contrast, creative architectural renewal, and 21st century regeneration.