3 March 2016
The 3rd of March 2016 marks the tenth anniversary of the opening of the Queen Mother Building by the Princess Royal. The building is home to the University of Dundee's academics and researchers in computing, and occupies a prime site overlooking the College Green at the heart of the university campus. It was named in honour of the University's first Chancellor.
One of the elements of the design brief was for a building that facilitated running into each other accidentally, rather than being cut off from each other in isolated offices, but still with the ability to preserve privacy when required. This was done with extensive use of glass walls and public spaces, and many of the design features continue to delight the occupants, such as the internal glass-enclosed bridge from the centre of the building to the unique research theatre. Beneath this bridge is a large open area which has come to be known as "the street", and is a favourite meeting place for students and visiting groups. It is also used for the end-of-year Degree Shows and other exhibitions which have included one of Beatles photos from the University's Peto Collection and an exhibition of radar-related items commemorating Sir Robert Watson-Watt.
The building's unusual design means that the internal spaces are a variety of shapes, and different wall and floor textures are used throughout, removing the visual monotony associated with some modern buildings. The use of thick insulation externally was unusual at the time, and the heating calculations for the building took into account the large number of CRT monitors that would be in use … unfortunately not allowing for their later replacement by energy-efficient flat panel displays, which produce much less heat!
Lab and lecture spaces on the ground floor give way to research "pods" and staff offices on the other two floors, and the Strathmore Room with its great view overlooking the College Green is used for graduations and other functions and meetings - as well as its day-to-day use as the staff coffee room.
The morning of the opening saw snow covering the ground, but this went off as the Princess Royal arrived for the opening, which was performed in bright sunlight under the watchful eye of the University Principal, Sir Alan Langlands, and the head of the School of Computing, Dr. Peter Gregor and invited guests. The event had been tightly scheduled and was running smoothly - until the Princess Royal started chatting to the researchers about their work and their plans. She quickly became immersed in discussions with the enthusiastic staff and the research work on show. The carefully planned schedule including the time allocated for her lunch, which the Princess Royal sacrificed - much to the consternation of her co-ordinating team.
Manuel Trucco, the current discipline lead for Computing, said "The Queen Mother Building impressed me as soon as I arrived in Dundee. Its design brings together successfully space and light to makes it an ideal workspace for creative work and learning".
The building is home to several "user groups" who use the building's facilities in return for being available to act as testers for projects designed by the students and researchers. The first of these groups will also be celebrating its tenth anniversary shortly, and a combined celebration for this group and building itself is being planned for the early summer.
The Queen Mother Building remains a fine building populated by outstanding staff and researchers who, ten years on, continue to delight in showing visitors how the building assists in their work.
The building was designed by Page/Park Architects in Glasgow, and won the following awards in the year of its opening (2006):
- Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Scotland Sustainability Award
- Scottish Design Award – Public Building Commendation
- Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EUAC) Green Gown Award
- Insulated Render and Cladding Association (INCA) Supreme Award
- Dundee Civic Trust Award
- Dundee Institute of Architects Award – Public Building Commendation