The story of the renewal of Elephant and Castle

LCC: ‘the brains behind the beauty’

  • Defne Saricetin
    A virtual model of the current shopping centre site, with the new LCC building on the right [UAL]


“Like a diamond inside a hard shell,” replies Patricio Athie, 23-year-old London College of Communication graduate, when asked to desribe his school.

It is true that not everyone knows what kind of marvels the future’s filmmakers, photographers, designers and journalists are creating inside of that old building in Elephant and Castle.

However, according to Natalie Brett, the Head of College, that is all about to change as they move to a brand new campus across the street. Particularly with the town centre regeneration going on; making the area a new arts and culture hub or ‘the next Shoreditch’ as the students say.

Brett is far from any image of your classic Head of College; with a fashionable bob, red lips and horn-rimmed glasses, running around her office, looking for LCC necklaces she made herself to gift to her students, with the energy of a 20-year-old.

“There is something about this place and its vibe, I don’t know what it is. I guess it has to do with where it is. For me; we’re here, we’ve been here for 53 years and we are not going away,” she laughs.


As much as Elephant served as a cultural and commercial hub in history, the poor local planning decisions made post-war are no longer meeting the modern requirements to move through the area.

Hence the area is currently going through one of Central London’s largest regeneration projects including brand new housing of all types, more than 5,000 new jobs, better public transport, Central London’s biggest new park and the new campus for LCC; at the heart of this project and the new headquarters of University of the Arts London.

The questions around the new campus scenario can be imagined easily by looking at the examples of other colleges, such as how Central St. Martins got a new home five years ago and how well it is working out for them or how the ongoing constructions in their work space is affecting the Camberwell College students.

“The disruption made it difficult to be inspired, the library had no windows and it was always cold, it was a disaster,” says 19-year-old former Foundation student Leila Amin.

“If we were to stay in LCC and try to fix the building; it would’ve taken eight years, it would be a nightmare but that was an option,” says John Parmiter, the Chair of Estates Committee.


UAL’s new LCC site will sit in between a multi-screen cinema and a live music venue, being the new centre for arts, culture and education.

While the first launch of the model for the area is taking place, it is quite astonishing to hear not only educators but from architects to developers, everybody talking about the importance of education, creativity and bettering of the area through design.

Jon Abbott, Head of Regeneration North from Southwark Council underlines their excitement about LCC deciding to stay: “You cannot replace what a university and the students bring to an area by putting shops or houses or anything else.”

When asked why he feels LCC is the heart to this project, Richard Chambers, Project Director at Delancey, has a different answer: “Because of Natalie,” he laughs; but it certainly is a joke with a grain of truth. Delancey has given LCC a lot of say on how they want the building to be, what they want and need to maximise students’ experience.

A big black triangle surrounded by a plaza, green spaces, cafes and artistic venues; the new home for the creatives certainly proves to be designed based on how to improve the students inspiration and collaboration.


The six metre high atrium for showcasing exhibitions and events, the balconies around the atrium, two massive film studios, a transparent newsroom, huge social spaces in every floor, as well as Harvard lecture room scenarios instead of an exam-room like learning environment, where each student has an individual working space and the tutor can walk around, each containing about 50-60 seats.

The Associate Director at Allies and Morrison, Mammad Tabatabai is an architect that believes in how by the design of a space you can change how people interact within it.

He explains how every detail of the building was throughly thought about to suit the needs of the students. “A space where students from all courses can get together,” which is not possible in the current building due to the complex design of the building separating blocks and having little social space for collaboration.

The atrium was designed as two floors to bring light into the building and have a large gallery space, the staircases were built in the middle of the building to create circulation and enhance LCC’s famous buzz.

“The new campus will be much more involving, collaborative, inspiring and social,” says Tabatabai, plus walking into a cinema ,through a bridge from the college, during lunch break, doesn’t hurt inspiration.


“It will be an amazing gallery-like centre to come back to after graduating, yet it’s impossible not to be jealous whilst studying in the current campus,” says first-year Public Relations student Hillary Ewen stating what all the students currently enrolled in LCC at the moment feel, as it’s unlikely they will get to study in the new building.

This explains Brett’s emphasis on how the current building will be maintained before the move and how they are trying out new designs for the lecture theatres, installing new types of furnitures including a sort of mini auditorium, where people can use informally whether they’re having presentations or if they are working in groups. There will be more coccooned spaces and big bench tables due to students’ requests.

“So even though we’re leaving here, we’re making sure that we are improving it because nobody wants to work in a rubbish building,” Brett says.

She also adds that the beauty of it is how for all the students in courses there is no disruption whilst waiting for the completion of a bigger, better and more open LCC for all alumni and public to take place in.

Hosting events and exhibitions that are open to the public, working with community groups and local businesses and now being the new centre for UAL’s core University Services and renowned international Language Centre, LCC is not only adding to the college’s strong and ‘quietly famous’ image as they like to call it, but completely taking the college to a whole new level with their new facility.


“The vision for the new building is that we do bring people into the building; especially people that might not have access for spaces to work,” says Brett.

“For the first three floors I would like the Southbank Centre approach; some of the walls will be pivoting walls, so in term time there’s teaching going on behind those walls and show time you can just open it up to one massive great big exhibition space.”

Brett says they are looking at putting short charge-free sessions for people to come in and learn some of the things they do, as well as their alumni, like coding for instance.

“This new building really comes with this central hub where our existing students, our graduates and others can collaborate and work and learn in a way that they can’t do at the moment because of the current building’s design,” she says.

It’s so nice to meet the brains behind this beauty of a building. LCC is also kind of like the brainy part of UAL: “We’re not CSM with the superstar fashion folk, our image is not shouting” as Natalie puts it, we’re the cool ones, rather “the brains behind the beauty”.

And now we have the beauty part as well, and hopefully the name LCC will not just impress the industry people but also a every person in the streets of Elephant and Castle in five years’ time.


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