The Queen Mother Building

In the late 1990s, the then Department of Applied Computing was housed in the MicroCentre and had expanded to include a renovated building, the Jam Factory (it had been originally built for making jam, and we decided to retain its name). We were looking to expand our facilities, particularly for our research into computer systems to support disabled people. At that time, the demographics of increasing numbers of older people were beginning to be recognised. It was also clear to us that older people had different user characteristics than the "disabled" people for whom assistive technology had been traditionally designed.

We therefore began to devise a research plan which focused on the IT needs of older people. The Queen Mother was Dundee University's first Chancellor, and also was an older person with a very high profile. In addition we had developed strong links with Mary, Dowager Countess of Strathmore from Glamis Castle, the Queen Mother's childhood home. Through the good offices of the Countess, we were able to obtain permission to use the Queen Mother's name to promote our research. Our planned new building was to be called the Queen Mother Building, and Mary Strathmore became our patron. Mary also donated the Strathmore Trophy for our annual competition for secondary school children interested in computing.

To support our research into computer support for older people, and in keeping with our "user centred" approach, the plans for the new building included a user centre which provided a base where groups of older people could work with computers and help us with our research. We had also been developing methods of using theatrical performances in our research, both to help with raising awareness of the challenges older people had with modern technology and also to assist with the requirements gathering stages of developing new technology. The new building was thus designed to include a fully functioning studio theatre (the Wolfson Theatre - named after the trust which provided the funding for it). We believe that Computing at the University of Dundee is unique in the world in having these facilities.

All of the groups who were going to use the building - academic, research and support staff, and undergraduate and research students - met with architects Page\Park to discuss how it should look and operate. There was universal support for a building which did not look like a computer building ("it should not look geeky"), and the idea of avoiding straight lines was discussed, as was the potential environmental impact of the building. On the basis of these discussions, Karen Pickering from Page\Park produced the innovative design which is now the home of Computing at the University of Dundee. This gave us a beautiful building with an exciting exterior, and an internal design of which encouraged interaction between users. It is heated by waste heat from the University's combined heat and power system and is naturally cooled.

QMB opening

The QMB is very successful new building and some of its design features have been reflected in other nearby new builds on the campus, such as the Dalhousie Building (which also followed our lead by being named after another previous Chancellor - Lord Dalhousie).

The Queen Mother Building was officially opened on 3rd March 2006 by HRH Princess Anne.

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