Late Swindon Central Library architect to be honoured there

By Barrie Hudson - 9 October 2020

CommunityHeritage

Lasting tributes will be made to an award-winning architect who devoted his career to helping the most vulnerable in Swindon.

  • Nic Newland with Princess Anne at the official unveiling of Swindon's Central Library

    Nic Newland with Princess Anne at the official unveiling of Swindon's Central Library

Swindon Borough Council will mark the passing of Nic Newland at the building with which he is most fondly associated, the Central Library.

Nic, who died last month, joined the council in 1999 as a senior architect before becoming Head of Architecture and Construction Management.

With a strong passion for education and creating the best learning environments he could, Nic was involved in more than 90 school refurbishment and new-build projects, including leading on improvements at a number of special schools.

His flexible modular Class Solutions school design, using connecting timber-framed blocks to allow the easy building, extension and adaptation of schools, can be seen in a number of newly-built schools in the borough including Croft Primary School and Tadpole Primary School.

Council leader David Renard said: “I had the great privilege of working with Nic for a number of years and he will be a great loss to the council.

“He was a great character and meticulous in his work. He also went the extra mile to ensure the people who used his buildings were at the heart of his designs. 

"This was evident in the features he put into his assisted bungalows, and I’m sure teachers and pupils who have benefited from his new school designs will be appreciative of the flexible teaching spaces he created.

“In fact, Nic’s Class Solutions concept summed up his attention to detail. The large classrooms are free from obstructions, the windows are closer to the ground to make it easier for children to see out of them and a ventilation system monitors temperature and oxygen levels so that fresh air is circulated to maintain concentration and alertness among pupils.

“In Tadpole Primary School, Nic even ensured each classroom had its own small domestic heating boiler so that the school was not reliant on a large expensive heating system which could close the whole school if it broke down.

“I am delighted we will be marking Nic’s passing at Central Library because he was so instrumental in its creation. 

"He was the one who installed the colourful lights that bring the building to life at night. As a result, his life will always burn bright for those of us who knew him at the Council.”

In recognition of his role in the library's creation, a special photo of Nic, together with a plaque, will be displayed there, while a bench will also be placed in his honour in the courtyard he designed. 

The council is also looking to name one of the buildings or developments he designed in his honour to commemorate his achievements.

Nic picked up countless awards throughout his career for his innovative designs as well as a number of Local Authority Building Control Swindon and West of England accolades for his school and housing developments.

Nic’s legacy will also live on through the countless assisted living bungalows he designed for vulnerable adults, and his most recent concept of independent living units for Swindon’s foster families.

When the Mechanics’ Institute needed urgent repairs a decade ago, Nic oversaw the emergency work to keep the building safe. 

He worked on numerous regeneration projects such as the redevelopment of Sussex Square before putting the building blocks in place for the ongoing creation of 149 affordable homes at Queens Drive.

The Central Library in Regent Circus, which was opened by Princess Anne in 2009, won a string of awards as well as achieving an accreditation for excellence in the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method scheme.

A winner of a BREEAM annual award, the library has a long list of green features including natural ventilation, an efficient underfloor heating system, rainwater harvesting and sophisticated lighting controls. 

Nic’s designs also earned the Central Library a runner-up place in the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ International Sustainability Awards. The design of the building was singled out for special commendation and, in getting to the international final, it won an award at the RICS’s South West Regional Sustainability awards.

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