Middlesbrough’s Unity City Academy is an accessible, IT-led learning centre – complete with egg-shaped pod

1200 PUPILS returning to Middlesbrough’s Unity City Academy after their summer holidays are going to notice one or two changes to their school. For one thing, they will be sitting down in a spectacular new £20m Alsop-esque elliptical building, topped by a slanted copper-clad roof and containing an enormous yellow egg.

The building, which is the first new-build academy of its kind to be opened, was designed by Telford-based practice Hickton Madeley and built by Gleeson. It was built on the site of two other schools.

The egg at its core is formally known as the Sapere Centre; it houses a 120-seat lecture theatre. Access to its soft, purple seats is over a stepped bridge from the first of the building’s five floors. It rests on four slender steel legs, giving it the appearance of being suspended in space.

This futuristic design is symbolic of the aims of the UCA, which pioneers an IT-led approach to education.

The pod’s position, with all sides exposed, also suggests a sense of accessibility. This is integral to UCA’s programme, which aims to unite school and community learning in one centre. The invitation to learn is extended by a transparent facade on the academy’s front elevation, which ensures that the egg is visible from outside. Two glazed stair towers at the rear complete the effect.

The project team also includes project manager and QS Gleeds, structural engineer Marks Heeley & Brothwell and mechanical engineer FaberMaunsell.