On a fine Spring morning, the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering (ACE) offered the Vice-Chancellor an unexpected mix of Roman chariots, starfish and hemp during her latest visit.
It was perfect timing for the visit, with the newly published 2016 Complete University Guide further cementing the department’s national position at the top of the tables as Architecture ranked first and Civil Engineering third in the country.
Professor Pete Walker, Head of Department, welcomed Dame Glynis and introduced her to the Department Executive before presenting an overview of the department and its recent successes, including its joint first position in the Architecture, Built Environment & Planning category of REF 2014 with 90 per cent 4* or 3* papers.
Looking to next year, Pete outlined how the new 4ES building, which is currently under construction, would offer 1,500 m2 studio space and a 300 m2 workshop to the growing department of 850 UG and 600 PG students.
Professor Alex Wright, Head of Architecture, ran through some of the Architecture Group’s outstanding achievements including being ranked first overall in the national media subject league tables, having the highest NSS overall satisfaction rating for any UK school of architecture between 2009 and 2014, and the fact that 92 per cent of students achieve a first or 2.1 class degree.
Dr Antony Darby, Head of Civil Engineering, then spoke about the Civil Engineering Group, where intake has doubled in six years, underlining the unique mix of a joint teaching environment, creative design focus and industry input.
Pete then escorted Dame Glynis into 6E, dropping by students’ studios to visit Dr John Tredinnick’s Dome Research Project. John, an EngD student working in both the Dept of Computer Science and ACE, transported Dame Glynis back in time to the grounds of Chedworth Roman Villa in a virtual chariot race which was projected planetarium-style inside the ‘Discovery Dome’.
It was then down to the Structures and Hydraulics Labs on Level 1 to see Dr Chris Blenkinsopp’s work with starfish, investigating how the creatures use natural marine engineering to improve their chances of reproduction by arching themselves during spawning.
The next unscheduled stop was in the structures lab to look at how fabric moulded concrete can offer improved strength and aesthetics, and the soils lab to talk to Drs Daniel Maskell and Andrew Thomson who are researching the health benefits of using natural wall linings such as clay, lime and hemp on building inhabitants.
Dame Glynis, who met with members of staff at the end of her visit, said: “Thank you for inviting me; I’ve enjoyed seeing your work and celebrating your many achievements.
“It is wonderful to see you at this level of success; what I want to know is where you go from here and how we can help because you have a senior management team that is 100 per cent behind you.”