Lower Mountjoy Teaching and Learning Centre

Lower Mountjoy Teaching and Learning Centre supports the development and adoption of new pedagogies, providing technologically enabled and future-proof teaching spaces within a collaborative and inspirational environment for learning. The building is the first strategic project to emerge from the university masterplan that we developed with Durham University in 2017.

Our independent research into how spatial design can support the success of innovative pedagogies, informed the development of a teaching and learning ‘space model’, which became the basis for the accommodation brief for the building and subsequently the internal layout. A top-lit central courtyard forms the social and circulation hub of the building giving access to the café, 250 and 500 seat lecture theatres, seminar spaces and project rooms. A diverse mix of teaching spaces surrounds the lecture theatres, supporting traditional seminars as well as macro-collaboration and micro-collaboration. The vaulted top floor of the centre provides an extensive ‘learning commons’ with a broad range of settings for focused, contemplative, active and collaborative learning.

Teaching and learning centre for higher education

Durham, England



Durham University

December 2017 - September 2019

September 2019

The building has received very positive feedback from students and staff and is being well-used. Reflecting on the building’s popularity to date, we are looking ahead to incredibly exciting times for our students and for the University.

Professor Alan Houston
Vice-Provost (Education), Durham University

Engaging a World Heritage Site

Durham is an historic city and its UNESCO World Heritage Site, containing the cathedral and castle, exerts a strong influence over the character of the university estate. The site chosen for the teaching and learning centre is situated on the edge of the city centre, adjacent to a conservation area and within view of the World Heritage Site.

In this highly sensitive location the incorporation of an 8,250m², three storey building presented a challenge. To ensure the new centre integrated sensitively with the urban fabric, the overall building volume was broken down into an assemblage of smaller repeated elements to relate more closely to the prevailing grain of the city.

Durham University Lower Mountjoy Modular Roof Plan L
Durham University Lower Mountjoy Form Development Diagram Faulknerbrowns Architects Sp

A three-storey module with a 15x18m footprint was established as the building block from which the centre was formed. Each module has two façade types: a ‘fenestrated’ façade generally on the long face, and a ‘gable’ façade to the short face. Each module is capped by an asymmetric pyramidal roof with a central rooflight. Twelve of these modules, rotated and handed, create the overall plan layout and building volume, with one of the central elements being ‘removed’ to create a focal internal courtyard.

The dynamic roof profile not only delivers complexity and interest in the external form, it also creates a series of dramatic top-lit ceiling coffers to the upper level learning commons - a modern interpretation of the traditional reading room. The pyramidal roofs are finished in traditional standing seamed zinc sheet to contrast with the tones of the brickwork below and respond appropriately to the conservation setting.

Crucible for Academic Endeavour

I love to work in the Teaching and Learning Centre as it’s so nice and bright and there are so many options for seating depending on how you want to work. I often sit at the group tables so that I can talk to friends about the work I’m stuck on.

Maisie Bott
Student, Durham University


  • RIBA Awards 2021
    RIBA National Award
  • RIBA North East Awards 2021
    RIBA Regional Award
  • Civic Trust Awards 2021
    Highly Commended
  • LABC Northern Building Excellence Awards 2020
    Best Public Service or Educational Building