Department of
Architecture and Built Environment

History of the


The Department has evolved from a small Government School of Design in 1843 into what it is today. The past 170 years have seen many changes as the department has gone from strength to strength, incorporating new buildings and new ventures which have brought us forward into the modern era.

Today we have a strong focus on sustainability and sustainable solutions. We are part of a global university and as such maintain strong links with schools in China and other countries.



The Nottingham Government School of Design was opened. 

Its earliest pupils included "architects' clerks", and subjects taught included "Draughtsmanship" and "Architectural Ornament".



A separate department of Architecture was formed, together with departments of painting, sculpture and design.




The University College of Nottingham opened in Shakespeare St. Between the wars, the future University moved to University Park in Lenton (land donated by Jesse Boot) and the Trent and Portland buildings were built in neo-classical style.



In 1928 the department of architecture became the School of Architecture within the then Nottingham College of Art (now incorporated into Nottingham Trent University) and stayed in the Waverley building until 1947.

The department occupied the rooflit upper floors in the splendid Waverley Building which is still part of Nottingham Trent University, and still houses their Interior Architecture department.



In 1948, the University College of Nottingham received a Royal Charter to become The University of Nottingham.




In the College of Art the school's head was George Checkley, a Rome medalist and Liverpool graduate. The postwar influx of ex-forces students into the school was a major growth period and from 1947 to 1964 the School of Architecture moved out of the Waverley and occupied a large converted Methodist church (Tennyson Hall) Radford, as part of the College of Art, with Denis Thornley as head of school. The building retained the upper floor galleries and the staff room was the vestry.



The School left the College of Art and moved to Nottingham University, being a Department of Architecture located in the top 5 floors of the University Tower (designed by Renton Howard Wood Levine) which was the "campanile" in Basil Spence's master plan of the University's new 'Science City'. Donald Notley moved to a headship in Singapore, and for the rest of the decade, the school included Urban Planning, headed by Professor Arthur Ling bridging both disciplines. The school had a vigorous 'Live Project Office' and the master plan for Runcorn New Town was designed by Arthur Ling and Stewart Johnston in the mid sixties.

The Nottingham Tower was contemporary with the Tower at Sheffield University, also by Renton Howard Levine, also housing the Architecture School in the upper floors. The original lifts were so erratic that the whole building was vacated 1974-1976 for new lifts and other refurbishment work. There was a lightwell between floor 14 and 15, but this was filled over at the same time to provide more floorspace. (This angle of view is no longer possible, since the 2011 construction of the new Engineering Student Learning Centre.)



After Arthur Ling, John Tarn was professor in 1970, and he moved to Liverpool School of Architecture in 1974. Norman Summers (then a notable writer on local history) was acting-head twice during professorial interregni.


1974 (to 1989)

Chris Riley came in from the Liverpool School of Architecture and was professor of the department from 1974 to 1989.



During the tower refurbishment 1974-76 the school was in the Old Engineering Block and Cherry Tree Buildings (now demolished with the site part occupied by the Nottingham New Theatre). The School returned to Science City's Tower building until 1987. The Tower was famous with Nottingham people because it seemed like a beacon of light - architecture students work long hours during term time and there were illuminated studios on the top 4 floors. Student numbers were under 200, but  overflow space was still needed, so the single storey 'Pharmacy' blocks south of the Coates Building (now demolished to make way for the Coates Road Auditorium) housed the workshops, labs and some 4th/5th year studio spaces.



In 1987, with Prof Chris Riley, the School moved out of the Tower to the buildings of Wortley Hall, which was renamed Lenton Firs. Riley had been a professional bricklayer in his teens so a high point at the end of each summer term was a professor-led bricklaying course for the first years, creating brick sculptures in the courtyards.

Chris Riley devised a way of converting the single storey residential blocks into studios, by adding lean-to structures which linked the single storey blocks, and the 'Triangle' became a very successful studio space from 1987 to 2005. It may have had narrow corridors and poor thermal performance and appearance, but it was 'home'.



Prof Christopher Riley retired in 1989. Prof Peter Tregenza was interim head of school for 1989-1990 but subsequently moved to Sheffield.



In 1990, Prof Peter Fawcett came from Belfast and became head of school. This was a period of major recruitment, with almost a complete turnaround of staff. Most of the staff intake of 1964 retired.

Lenton Firs was expanded slightly to the west with the construction of the single storey 'Gallery' designed by Martin Noutch (then also head of 1st year studio teaching).



In 1997, the school became the School of the Built Environment (SBE) headed by Professor Saffa Riffat, with a strong energy efficiency and sustainability agenda. The school of Planning was merged with the SBE. Lenton Firs was the main administrative centre and Paton house became studio space and staff offices.

In 7 years of Prof Riffat's time from 1997-2004, four major buildings were added (Ecohouse, Marmont Centre, Sustainable Research Building and the Environmental Education Centre (below, designed by S+P Architects, Nottingham)), and previously empty stable blocks and the squash courts were converted to laboratories.

The Triangle Studio building was (sadly for the architects) demolished in August 2005.



The Studio Building (Environmental Education Centre EEC) was completed September 2004. It is in some ways reminiscent of the 'Church Hall' style of architectural studio building - drawing boards under a soaring roof. But it has adapted to the modern way of teaching, with tutorial groups, wifi, group work etc.

Prof Brian Ford was head of school from 2004-2008, fully continuing the sustainability agenda, and in Sept 2008, Prof Tim Heath (originally of Urban Design) became head of the SBE, again maintaining the school's focus on sustainability.



The school opened its first building on the University’s China campus, the CSET (Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies), designed by Prof Mario Cucinella. Undergraduate programmes are offered on the China campus, starting initially with engineering and then architecture degrees.

Since 2008, five more small buildings have been constructed east of Lenton Firs, the Creative Energy Homes. These are eco-houses with different experimental technologies, on sites adjoining Wortley Close. Each house has a different industrial sponsor (Mark Group, BASF, E.ON, Tarmac, Bullivant).



In August 2009, the School moved from the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences to the Faculty of Engineering, and becomes the Department of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE).

The Wolfson Technology Centre opens on Jubilee Campus, which includes a prototyping hall for researching design through full-scale constructions and offers space for exhibitions.



Today Dr Robin Wilson heads the department which offers a full range of professional architecture programmes (Part I, Part II and Part II programmes recognised by ARB/RIBA), specialist Master of Architecture programmes, CIBSE recognised engineering programmes and a range of Master of Science programmes focusing on energy, renewable energy and sustainable technologies.



Department of Architecture and Built Environment

The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 95 14882