Technopolis celebrates its 50th birthday

05 Jul 2010 00:00:00.000

It was called Technopolis, and the state-of-the-art building designed to house the rising numbers of chemistry students at The University of Nottingham was considered its flagship. Though the former name for the Science Park has long since fallen into disuse, the Chemistry Building is still going strong — and celebrates its 50th birthday this year. 

Plans for a new chemistry building — and a broader science complex — were hatched in 1955. Basil Spence, one of the most important figures in British architecture in the post-war period, was chosen for the job. He was responsible for the successful Sea and Ships Pavilion at the 1951 Festival of Britain, and for the controversial modernist design of Coventry Cathedral, which was completed in 1962

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The original plans saw the chemistry building as a tall multi-storey structure, but the plans were changed after academics asked questions as to its suitability for research. The final designs went before the University Buildings Committee in February 1958, with work beginning in the September of that year.

The building was the first in Europe to feature specially-made glass pipes and drains so that blockages and chemical disposal could be monitored. The cost of equipping the new building was £185,667 — almost £3m by today’s standards.

It was noted at the time that the interior of the building was “pleasantly unobtrusive and unlikely to distract the student from his work.”

The teaching area of the building was opened to students in 1960, though a shortage of skilled labour and materials, coupled with technical problems, delayed the handover of the research section until the following year.

The School of Chemistry will celebrate the building’s birthday at this year’s graduation ceremony on Monday July 19. Displays of photographs and equipment from the past 50 years will be on show, and there will be the chance for current and former staff and students to attend the famous Thunder and Lightning lectures.

Professor Mark Searle, Head of the School of Chemistry, said: “In the last 50 years the School of Chemistry has grown considerably in both size and stature, with Chemistry at Nottingham achieving a ranking of 2nd in the UK in the recent research assessment exercise (RAE2008). In part, this can be attributed to our great success in pursuing collaborative research projects with colleagues within many different Schools across science, engineering and medicine, making interdisciplinary research a particular strength in Nottingham. The current Chemistry building now accommodates considerably more researchers than it was ever designed for. Keeping the building fit for purpose over the next 50 years remains our greatest challenge.”

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.

The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.

Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Sam Tang on +44 (0)115 846 7229, samantha.tang@nottingham.ac.uk
  Tara De Cozar

Tara De Cozar - Internal Communications Manager

Email: tara.decozar@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 846 8560 Location: University Park

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