South East Essex College, Southend-on-Sea

South East Essex College, Southend-on-Sea


KSS Design Group Ltd

Structural Engineer

Adams Kara Taylor Ltd

Steelwork Contractor

DGT Steel & Cladding Ltd and William Hare Ltd

Main Contractor

Laing O’Rourke


South East Essex College

The new Campus Building for South East Essex College of Art and Technology demonstrates the many benefits that steel can bring to a project. In this building steelwork was used to build an economic, quick and imaginative building exploiting the strength and flexibility of structural steel. It was used to produce a quick, economic frame, a very light and dramatic atrium and dealt with the complex forms of the pod and the dining decks.

When the SEEC decided to relocate within Southend it was keen to exploit the opportunity to expand on its open teaching techniques. The building achieved this through the use of longspan precast planks which were supported on a steelwork frame. This solution allowed column areas of 14.5m x 30m to be formed. The project was procured as a design and build project and AKT worked with the main contractor Laing O’Rourke to develop a steel framed solution that achieved the aspirations of the College whilst satisfying the demanding programme.

A large lean-to atrium structure clad in ETFE standing 36m high and with a maximum span of 34m was formed using tied arches to produce a dramatic airy structure. Within the atrium is a bright red pod which houses a 250 seat lecture theatre. The pod was formed by using a number of steel frames to achieve the complex geometry. A sprayed concrete cladding was applied to the frame to dramatic effect. Also within the atrium us two levels of dining decks. These mushroom like forms were achieved by using cantilevered steel frames stabilised at the head by a concrete diaphragm.

Judges’ Comment


This unusual structure has added great value to the process of consolidating the college from three sites onto one central location.

The main building is L-shaped, and houses teaching and administration functions. In the angle of the block, the team have created a large, light atrium by the use of slender arches with glazing and ETFE pillows on the roof. The space covers galleries at various levels of the college, as well as “mushrooms” used for meeting and refreshment areas.

The quality of this space has had the beneficial effect of greatly increasing the number of applications from students to join the college and share in the excitement of the new environment.