In the closing days of summer 2016, days which possessed a warmth that is now a distant memory, I was commissioned by cladding specialists Taylor Maxwell to photograph Stapleton House, a very large student accommodation building located at a busy junction on Holloway Road, Islington. The building which was designed by Architecture PLB provides 862 bedrooms for students and is strategically located opposite the London Metropolitan University campus so as to mitigate the chances of any excuses made by students for not turning up to lectures on time. The building forms part of The Unite Group’s growing portfolio of London Student housing and like many of these new student living quarters it attempts to embody the diversity and liberal expressions of its youthful inhabitants through its own architectural liberalism, albeit within the constraints of the developers budget.
As with many student housing projects, including Byrom Point which I previously photographed, the buildings break down their otherwise large overbearing masses through interspersing a variety of forms, materials and colours. With Stapleton House the buildings external road facing elevation is reconfigured on the external courtyard facing elevation; the same materials are utilised but reassembled and given different levels of prominence in relation to each other. These materials include a variety of brick, stone and red metal cladding which combine to create a vibrant and diverse space. This kind of architecture stands in stark contrast with the monolithic student builds of years gone by where students were uniformly housed in oppressive towers of brown and grey.
Stapleton House is so large and detailed I could have easily spent all day photographing its many facets, it is one of those buildings that through its contrasts and divisions offers the architectural photographer an overwhelming set of possibilities for framing and composition and requires restraint for each image can necessarily be quite different and equally pleasing. This hints at a level of success on part or the architects, developer and material suppliers as it certainly hasn’t created a building that could be in any sense labeled boring, not in the eyes of an architectural photographer anyway.
As well as being gracious in its abundance of detail the building also imparted a sense of nostalgia on me for my days living in university halls - with time generously clouding those moments of utter despair when at 6:00am I was still awake listening through ears muffled by screwed up tissue paper to the monotonous bass produced by a communal kitchen DJ five floors above. Thankfully through the cherry picking of memories I was instead remind of the more positive experiences that come from communal living such as the exchange of ideas, culture and the making of new friends. It is within these more architecturally considered student living spaces that such interactions can be encouraged and take place. With the boom in student numbers accelerating and the ensuing creation of newer more spacious living spaces it is important that the considerations shown in buildings such as Stapleton House aren’t neglected in the rush to profit from rental fees, fortunately, while most student housing developments won’t come close to winning the RIBA’s sterling prize anytime soon, they are starting to show a creative divergence from their older utilitarian counterparts of the 20th century. To see more architectural photographs from my visit to Stapleton House please head to the projects section of my portfolio.