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Leicester Special Collections

A different look at the Engineering Building

In 2016, as part of my BA in Humanities & Arts at Vaughan College, I was asked to produce an architectural analysis of the University's Engineering Building. This page charts my initial misgivings about the task, my growing appreciation of its design, and how photographs bring to life its key features. 

A concrete-panelled octagonal chimney pushes out from the single-storey workshop block, resembling a rocket leaving its launching pad.

Oh no I thought, modern architecture holds no artistic appeal to me; how do I approach this? I was aware that it is regarded as one of the key buildings in architectural history, but it was of little interest to me. As I walked around the exterior of the building and researched its design and construction history, it became clear that the best approach was through photographs. These allowed me to appreciate its different features; the projecting bulk of the lecture theatres, the different heights of the two towers, the rocket like chimney, and perhaps above all the vast sea of shaped glass panels, best viewed from above. 

The red brick perimeter wall protects the glass panelled workshops from the rest of the campus.

Photographs also heightened my sense of the building as one that in different ways stands apart, and promotes a sense of separation from the rest of the campus. Its perimeter of red brick protects the glass-panelled workshops, giving no clue as to their interior. At night, a cloudy light through these opaque panels continues this sense of mystery. This sense continues into the tallest tower, where the extent of its patent glazing ensures that at night, light shines out over Victoria Park and the campus like a control tower.

A cloudy light promotes a sense of mystery inside the glass panelled workshops and towers.

The University's collection of photographs allow a sceptic like me to recognise and appreciate the unique design of the Engineering building. The volunteers' work on the metadata project ensures these photographs are correctly captioned for future researchers.

The unique features of the building are brought together within the perimeter wall.


Text written by Janet Neale

Page curated by Josephine Barnes