Cranfield University, Milton Keynes Council and Malcolm Reading Consultants have announced the shortlist for the MK:U International Design Competition for a new proposed university in the Oxford to Cambridge innovation arc. Details of the 12-strong jury were also announced.

MK:U is a new model university and one of the flagship projects of the MK Futures 2050 programme, which supports Milton Keynes Council’s ambition to create a city of opportunity for all. The new university is intended to create a new higher education exemplar that is open, accessible, dynamic, technologically-focused, innovative, diverse, business-oriented and entrepreneurial.

The first stage of the competition, which launched in January 2019, attracted 53 team submissions comprising 257 individual firms from across the globe.

The five finalist teams are:

  • Co:MK:U – WilkinsonEyre and AECOM with Spaces that Work, Mecanoo, dRMM, Publica and Contemporary Art Society
  • Hawkins\Brown with KCAP, Grant Associates, BuroHappold Engineering and Sam Jacob Studio
  • Hopkins Architects with Prior+Partners, Expedition Engineering, Atelier Ten and GROSS. MAX.
  • Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands with Henning Larsen, Architecture 00, Heyne Tillett Steel, Hoare Lea, Bradley-Hole Schoenaich Landscape Architects, Ken Baker, Steer, Iceni, Abell Nepp and FiD
  • OMA with BuroHappold Engineering, Planit-IE, Nicholas Hare Architects, Carmody Groarke and Galmstrup

Cranfield University is the educational lead for MK:U, which is being developed with a distinctive undergraduate curriculum including digital, cyber, autonomy, robotics and artificial intelligence. In each of the university’s key areas of focus, there will be a lead business partner which will help to prepare students for the future world of work. It is planned that around 15,000 students will eventually study at MK:U with the first 5,000 arriving in 2023.

Through its ambitious curriculum focused on digital economy skills, MK:U will honour the innovative spirit of nearby Bletchley Park, the birthplace of modern computing, and further MK’s pioneering work in ‘Big Data’, transport innovation and urban design.

Professor Lynette Ryals OBE, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Cranfield University and Chief Executive, MK:U, said: “The architectural community responded enthusiastically to the competition. We were in no doubt that they connected with our vision and it was humbling to choose from such a high-powered and talented field. We want to express our deep thanks to all who entered.

“MK:U is predicated on achieving excellence and we know from research that the quality of the learning environment directly affects learning outcomes. The finalist teams proved they can deliver exceptional design in educational settings, and communicated both collaborative spirit and energy in thoughtful and detailed submissions.

“We can’t wait to welcome the teams to MK and keenly anticipate their forthcoming masterplans and concept designs – these will go on show to the public and online digitally in early summer before the jury meets.”

The international jury, chaired by Professor Sir Peter Gregson FREng, Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University and chair of the MK Futures 2050 Commission, will include members from the worlds of business, science, tech, academia, the arts and Milton Keynes itself.

Members include:

  • Professor Dame Madeleine Atkins, President, Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge
  • Sir Peter Bazalgette, Non-Executive Chairman, ITV
  • Joe Berridge, Partner, Urban Strategies Inc.
  • Nathan Bostock, CEO, Santander UK plc
  • Rebecca Kurth, Chair, Central Milton Keynes Town Council
  • Councillor Pete Marland, Leader, Milton Keynes Council
  • Sumit Paul-Choudhury, Founder and Managing Director of Alternity and former Editor-in-Chief, New Scientist
  • Professor Lynette Ryals OBE, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Cranfield University and Chief Executive, MK:U
  • Phil Smith, Former Chairman, Cisco UK & Ireland
  • Anthony Spira, Director, MK Gallery
  • Paul Williams OBE, Principal Director, Stanton Williams Architects.

Competition Director, Malcolm Reading, said: “This is an inspired project and integral to the development of Milton Keynes. MK:U is emblematic of the city’s commitment to meeting the needs of new generations, engaging with them as they learn, and involving them in the changing city.

“Design excellence was the original force behind Milton Keynes and continues to inspire the city as it grows. Through its programme, masterplan and design, MK:U will set a new national benchmark for higher education and also for place-making in a city.

“The quality of submissions was outstanding, and many had chosen to assemble inspired teams with international expertise. The finalists succeeded by matching distinctive expertise to the opportunities offered in the brief, and combined this with a well-structured approach to team dynamics.”

There will be a public exhibition of all the second-stage designs at Middleton Hall in Milton Keynes running 4-7 July 2019 before the jury meets. The designs will also be published online.

The winner is expected to be announced in summer 2019.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.