Attenborough Building

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Coordinates: 52°37′16.5″N 1°7′26.4″W / 52.621250°N 1.124000°W / 52.621250; -1.124000

The Attenborough Tower with the seminar block in the foreground
Attenborough Building

The Attenborough Building is the tallest building on the campus of the University of Leicester, and houses arts and humanities departments.[1]

The building comprises three distinct elements: an 18-storey towerblock containing 270 offices and tutorial rooms; a low-rise building, known within the University as the Attenborough Seminar Block, containing seminar rooms and computing facilities; and an underground area housing two large lecture theatres and the University Film Theatre[citation needed].

It was designed by Arup Associates[2] and constructed 1968–70 with Ove Arup as the chief engineers.[citation needed] The university's development plan at the time called for two other similar towers, but these were never built.[3]

The building was named after Frederick Attenborough,[2] who was principal of the then University College 1931–1951, and father of Richard and David Attenborough.[4][3] At the time of the opening ceremony, Frederick was old and frail, so the building was opened on his behalf by his youngest son John.[citation needed] Until the renovations of 2005, a portrait of Frederick hung in the foyer.[citation needed]

The tower reaches a height of 52 metres, making it one of the tallest buildings in the city.[citation needed] It is constructed with a concrete frame, cast in-situ, and clad with pre-cast concrete panels.[citation needed] The slanting aluminium-framed windows protrude outwards at the bottom to aid draught-free ventilation throughout the year.[citation needed] Each floor consists of three leaves of space containing the offices.[citation needed] These are separated by the central lobby and service area, which contains a staircase, lift. It was built with a paternoster lift, but this was closed in December 2017[5][6] as maintenance had become too expensive.[7] The lowest two levels of the tower house a plant room with a boiler that serves half of the entire university campus.[citation needed]

The University's hilltop location makes the top floor of the tower one of the best vantage points in the city, to the extent that the University have fixed a notice at the base of the tower warning tourists that it is not open for the public "to view the city from a height".[citation needed] The top floor currently houses offices for the research students of the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, and formerly contained music practice rooms, including a full-size grand piano, until it was moved out on 29 March 2007.[citation needed] In high winds, the top of the tower can be felt to sway significantly.[dubious ][citation needed]

The seminar block includes the main entrance to the building.[citation needed] It is connected to the second floor of the tower by a covered bridge.[citation needed] It contains small teaching rooms on four levels, including one basement level.[citation needed] During the summer of 2005, the block underwent significant refurbishment, including work to install a lift to make the building conform to the Disability Discrimination Act – previously, access to the different levels of the seminar block was by staircase only.[citation needed] While the base of the tower uses yellow-brown brick seen in other buildings on campus, the seminar block features a concrete finish that more closely matches Denys Lasdun's adjacent brutalist Charles Wilson Building.[citation needed]

In front of the main entrance is a raised piazza, beneath which are the subterranean lecture theatres.[citation needed] There are two lecture theatres, seating 204 and 96 people respectively.[citation needed] The third room was previously a proscenium theatre, and was used by the Leicester University Theatre (LUT) society for their performances.[citation needed] In 2003, the theatre was converted into the 144-seat University Film Theatre, featuring a projection screen and surround sound system, in preparation of the launch of a new Film Studies degree.[citation needed] The film theatre is also used by the students' Film Society, Science Fiction and Fantasy Society and Anime and Manga Society.[citation needed]

The building should not be confused with the Attenborough Arts Centre, which is located on the opposite side of University Road, adjacent to the University's Medical Sciences Building.[citation needed]

Thoughts on the building[edit]

Due to its unusual design, it has been compared by Leicester residents to a giant "cheese grater".[8]


  1. ^ Andrew Garford Moore (10 February 2015). "Attenborough Building – Leicester". Brutalist Constructions. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  2. ^ a b avweb1. "Attenborough — University of Leicester". Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Attenborough Building, Leicester - Building #1059". Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  4. ^ "Who exactly are Leicester uni buildings named after?". University of Leicester. 24 February 2015. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  5. ^ Chilver, Katrina (8 December 2017). "Lift once nicknamed 'death elevator' to be removed". leicestermercury. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  6. ^ "Rare lift closed 'with heavy heart'". 13 December 2017. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  7. ^ "University closes rare lift 'with a heavy heart'". BBC News. 13 December 2017. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  8. ^ Richards, Simon (2012). Architect knows best : environmental determinism in architecture culture from 1956 to the present. Farnham: Ashgate. ISBN 978-1-4094-3922-6. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  9. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus; Williamson, Elizabeth (1985). Leicestershire and Rutland (2nd (revised) ed.). Yale University Press. p. 255. Retrieved 10 August 2015.

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