Consultants appointed to run design contest for ‘new model’ university in Milton Keynes

The company appointed to run a design contest for the city’s new university has been announced.

Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC) has been appointed to run the international design competition for MK:U, a ‘new model’ university in the heart of Milton Keynes.

The independent architectural competition organiser will launch the competition early next year and the announcement of the winning design team and concept design is expected next summer.

One of the fastest growing cities in Europe – expected to comprise 500,000 people by 2050 – Milton Keynes is widely recognised as a test bed for ‘smart city thinking’ and is at the heart of the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford growth arc, a key engine of the United Kingdom’s knowledge economy.

MK:U is a joint partnership between Cranfield University and Milton Keynes Council. It is expected to open in 2023, eventually serving 15,000 students. MK:U’s focus will be on a vocational and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) undergraduate curriculum in key areas including digital, cyber, autonomy, robotics and artificial intelligence.

MK:U is one of the flagship projects of the MK Futures 2050 programme, which supports MK Council’s ambition to create a city of opportunity for all.

Professor Lynette Ryals, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Cranfield University, Director, Cranfield School of Management, and Programme Director, MK:U, said: “The competition will set out a fascinating design challenge − to create a world-class university that offers a new model of education at the heart of the fast-growing, high-tech Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford arc.

“We will be searching for outstanding multi-disciplinary teams that connect with our vision and relate to Milton Keynes – a smart city with an entrepreneurial mindset and a great place to try out new technologies and future ways of living.”

Cllr Pete Marland, Leader of Milton Keynes Council, said: “The design competition is a once in a generation opportunity to develop a landmark building to showcase a UK city. We look forward to launching the competition and engaging with the design community. This is an ambitious project to hugely improve the quality of life in Milton Keynes and deliver a world-class university in the city.”

Competition director, Malcolm Reading, said: “We are delighted to be appointed to run this open two-stage international competition. Milton Keynes is at the heart of the UK’s knowledge economy and the new university proposes a forward-looking model of higher education with the emphasis on in-demand skills and retaining local talent.”

MRC will work with MK Council and Cranfield University to devise the competition materials, liaise with stakeholders and ensure absolute independence in the competition process.

An independent jury will assess the design submissions at stage two and select a winner. There will be a public exhibition (physical and online) of all the second-stage designs before the jury meets.

Malcolm Reading Consultants’ recent work includes competitions for the Cambridge to Oxford Connection (UK), University College Dublin (Ireland), Gallaudet University (Washington, D.C., US), the Royal College of Art (UK), Science Island (Kaunas, Lithuania), New College, Oxford (UK) and Homerton College, Cambridge (UK). MRC is currently preparing the international design competition for the new Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences at Parramatta, Sydney, Australia.

Interested architects and designers can now sign up to receive notification of the launch on the competition website’s holding page at competitions.malcolmreading.com/mku