The two-stage open competition – organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC) – will select a team for the ‘new model’ university in the heart of Milton Keynes. Five shortlisted teams will receive £30,000 each to draw up a masterplan and concept designs for the university’s 61,120m² first phase.
MK:U university – intended to reach ’beyond the scope of a traditional university’ – is scheduled to open in 2023 with 15,000 students and focus on vocational and STEM subjects relating to digital, cyber, autonomy, robotics and artificial intelligence.
The project – backed by Cranfield University and Milton Keynes (MK) Council – is one of the flagship elements of the MK Futures 2050 programme, which anticipates a more than doubling of the population within the Buckinghamshire new town by 2050.
A 10ha unused plot close to Milton Keynes station has been earmarked for its campus, bordered by Grafton Street, Witan Gate, Aylesbury Boulevard and Childs Way.
MK:U programme director and Cranfield University pro-vice-chancellor Lynette Ryals said: ‘MK:U is responding to this profound challenge with a radical new approach to higher education. MK:U will create an environment where innovation is a given and where students can learn alongside business mentors and apply their knowledge in business situations.
‘The headline theme both for MK:U, and the wider UK, is digital innovation. We want to commission architecture that is a call to action; drawing out human talent and equipping people from all backgrounds for the life-long challenges and opportunities of the digital economy.
‘We’re ambitious to set a new standard in university architecture, to create a memorable destination for citizens, and ultimately, a university with an exemplary and iconic physical presence.’
Milton Keynes Council leader Pete Marland said: ‘MK:U will have an exceptionally strong relationship to Milton Keynes because the city’s long-term future — and ambition to grow to half a million residents by 2050 — depends on retaining and attracting talent.
‘The city will be the university and the university the city. The welcoming University Quarter — the last major undeveloped site in the city centre — will mix university facilities with public spaces, invigorating the public realm with new energy both day and night.’
Competition director, Malcolm Reading said: ‘There is a global conversation underway about how our cities respond to new technologies and circumstances, and the vital contribution that the best architecture can make in shaping places where people want to be. The MK:U competition has these themes at its heart.’
Participating teams will be expected to feature an urban designer or masterplanner, landscape architect, structural engineer, civil or utilities engineer, and MEP services engineer.
The judging panel will be chaired by Cranfield University chief executive and vice-chancellor Peter Gregson. An overall winner will be announced in summer 2019.
The deadline for applications is 2pm on 6 March.
How to apply
Visit the competition website for more information
Malcolm Reading Consultants
8 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
Tel: + 44 (0)20 7831 2998