The LSE's jaw-dropping £71m structure is a building to wow students

The LSE has put up a beautiful modern structure to provide more teaching space, offices for academics and a venue for public events. All happy? Not quite.

Until now, the London School of Economics has been noted for its eggheads rather than its buildings. But that is changing. Earlier this month, the Queen opened a jaw-dropping £71m structure, complete with four lecture theatres, 16 seminar rooms, a street café and a rooftop pavilion with dramatic views across the capital.

Goodbye shabby rabbit warren. Hello sleek, airy modern. The transformation of the handsome Beaux Arts edifice that fronts on to Lincoln's Inn Fields into an 11-storey landmark is the brainchild of LSE director Sir Howard Davies, former chairman of the Financial Services Authority. "It's a wonderful space that at last gives us the academic environment to match our academic reputation," he says.

Designed by architects Grimshaw and built by Osborne, it puts the school on the architectural map. Two departments are housed here – management and law – and the LSE is expanding student numbers by 20 per cent, to 9,000. Also installed here is the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, chaired by Lord Stern. Finally, the LSE has a space enabling it to justify the sky-high fees it charges for its Masters degrees, and to overseas students.

Or as Davies puts it: "These days, students reasonably expect to be taught in classrooms and lecture theatres with leading edge information technology, and where they can easily hear and see the lecturer."

At the building's centre is a soaring three-storey, glass atrium that lets in copious amounts of natural light and gives a sense of grandeur and fluidity that the former Edwardian building lacked. The atrium's stepped timber floor swooping up one wall is a nice design flourish that softens the hard edges and complements the tiered seating. Students hang out on this floor. It is the heart of the building, a large and welcoming space that invites you to sit in it. On either side are the entrances, one that leads into Kingsway, the other into Lincoln's Inn Fields, so you can see right through.

Staircases climbing up both sides of the atrium are open, in contrast to the stairwells at the LSE's old building in Houghton Street which are dark and closed-in. And there numerous windows letting in more light and showing the school to the outside world. The effect is to open up the building to the public.

The colours are neutral, apart from the occasional splashes of red – a red wall on the north side that absorbs noise and a red globe, designed by Jo Gerrard, that hangs in the atrium and is repeated elsewhere.

Downstairs are four colour-themed lecture theatres. The largest, the Sheikh Zayed theatre, which holds 400 students, recently played host to BBC Radio 4's Any Questions. Another, smaller lecture theatre is shaped like a horseshoe to enable the teacher to stride around and interact with students on the Harvard model.

The academics are housed in little glass offices on the top floors. Again, this was done to let in light, but it is the most controversial aspect of the new development because it stops staff conducting private meetings. The architects admit it has met with a lot resistance. "But I hear that the academics are happy because they talk to one another more," says Ingrid Bille, one of the architects.

On my way out, however, I bump into an academic who gives the lie to this, expressing her displeasure at the glass offices. "I am in a goldfish bowl," she complains. "The management says it will address the problem." So, expect the beautiful glass offices to be covered in blinds.

The new structure is a considerable feat of engineering. The atrium has no columns and the building's floors have been suspended from a steel truss eight floors up. This truss rests on a pair of columns in the red lecture theatre.

And the building has been designed with the environmental in mind. A borehole deep underground provides water for cooling the lecture theatres while solar heating helps to provide warm water. There is also a natural ventilation system and a cycle park, which helped it achieve an excellent rating under the BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) scheme.

The whole thing, paid for by LSE alumni and supporters, will be complete when a huge sculpture by Richard Wilson is unveiled in the new year. It will be stunner by all accounts, wowing passers-by on Kingsway.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Primary Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Experienced Primary Teachers We are curr...

Drama Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Drama Teacher Required! The jobWe are ...

Nursery Worker

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Nursery Worker (permanent) Greater ...

English Teacher - long term assignment in Cheshire

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: English Teacher - long term job opport...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits