Over the last several years, LSE has made major improvements to its estate. These have extended the flow of our campus north to Lincoln’s Inn Fields and improved the capacity of our buildings to support education and student experience, the research and scholarly work of academic staff, and the public engagement that is a hallmark of LSE. There’s much remaining to do as we work to make our physical facilities fully adequate to the intellectual leadership we bring to London and the world. This is a major project that should benefit all parts of the School. I write to update you on one significant step forward and briefly indicate how this fits into our strategy.
The most immediate news is that LSE is to purchase the building at 44 Lincoln’s Inn Fields that is currently a laboratory facility for Cancer Research UK. This site is integral to LSE's campus, with other LSE buildings on three sides and across the street from our new Saw Swee Hock Student Centre. Making it part of LSE will help to improve the whole campus in its appearance, its pedestrian flow, and its functional support for our teaching, research and other work. It expands our frontage onto one of London’s most beautiful landscaped squares, allowing better connections from the Library and other buildings. Conversely, if it had been converted to residential use this would have been challenging for the School (and not least the use of the Student Centre). We will not take physical possession of the building for a couple of years; we will use the time to make decisions about its remodelling or replacement and best use. We are delighted that this use will remain nonprofit, intellectual, and for the public good.
You will all know that we have other major improvements underway. The biggest of these is the reconstruction of the centre buildings on the east side of Houghton Street. This will replace an inefficient and unattractive set of 1970s buildings with an exciting structure that is part of a better integrated, more usable and more accessible campus. We are in the process of selecting architects to create a new, environmentally efficient Centre for Global Social Sciences – and both world famous architects and exciting emerging stars are bidding for the project. The building will include both classrooms and academic and student service offices and help us advance the goal of providing better common spaces in the midst of academic departments. And the campus it enhances will have better integration of its ground floor spaces, more informal gathering areas offering coffee and tea, and easier access to both classes and events. It will also, undoubtedly, look better, with modern spacious buildings complementing the old along Houghton Street at the historic heart of LSE.
The new Saw Swee Hock Student Centre that is to open during Michaelmas Term already adds architectural excitement as well as much needed student space to the campus. The former Land Registry Building at 32 Lincoln’s Inn Fields brings us a wonderful building of an earlier period, now remodelled to house the Economics Department and a variety of related research centres, programmes, and teaching spaces. Also on Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the New Academic Building is already the site for many of our major public events as well as the Law and Management departments. Just to make clear that our plans support the private sector as well as the public good, we are confident that all this will bring even more business from the LSE community to Cooper’s restaurant and Angelo’s haircutters!
There is much still to be accomplished as we improve the estate. Let me say just a few words about this and invite continued input from all of you as part of our strategic review process.
First, expansion is not a goal in itself; additional space is valuable only as support for our core mission of education, research, intellectual leadership and public engagement. Moreover, improving how our space works is as important as simply adding space. The structures are here to make an attractive, usable environment for our students and for all the different staff whose work is crucial to the School.
Second, our new purchase and other plans are all accommodated in prudent budgetary projections. They do not push us into unacceptable levels of debt. We have time to make some major decisions, both about construction plans and about whether we should let other buildings go to offset costs. During this time we also hope that private fundraising will support improvement of the LSE estate. But we should also acknowledge that years of prudent financial management have enabled the LSE to make this investment in its future.
Third, we need space for many purposes: better classrooms and informal areas for study, teaching and learning; offices for new faculty; facilities for some of our world-leading research centres; and common spaces for the critical intellectual debates that are a hallmark of LSE. We don’t have the conference facilities or the sports and athletic facilities we would like. We aren’t able to create the workspaces needed for some of our support staff to be fully effective. As we work to improve LSE’s physical estate and enhance our environmental performance we will try to accommodate, but also balance, many different needs. We will also try to schedule different building projects in as minimally disruptive a way as possible.
Finally, I’ve already stressed that we are approaching our estate strategy not just as a matter of space or separate buildings but also as an effort to build a better campus. This means a more effectively integrated campus, with better pedestrian flows, a stronger identity and a more dynamic and engaging overall appearance. LSE is by choice an urban university, so the campus will signal both our place in the city and our openness to the city. Because the city in question is London, this also means an openness to the world – to basic social issues, to people from different parts of British society and around the globe, and to the different institutions that also engage and shape that world: law courts and government, business corporations and charitable organisations, museums, theatres, music and dance clubs and the public spaces so vital to urban life.
The LSE campus is already a centre for that public life, as well as an intellectual home and a place for advancing individual learning and the knowledge available to all. With the addition of new space, with exciting new designs, and with better integration we will make this campus even better for all these purposes.
Professor Craig Calhoun