The 16,500m2 new Social Sciences building is designed to meet the future growth demands of the Faculty up to the year 2035, creating a world class, low energy sustainable building that encourages collaboration and enhances the Faculty’s reputation for excellence in teaching and research.

Design Approach

In a competitive global educational marketplace Universities need to provide world-class facilities to attract the best students. The social sciences hub reflects a growing trend for centralising teaching spaces to enhance space utilisation and looking at collaborative working practices.

The scheme sits at the heart of a new social sciences mini campus providing bespoke accommodation for the departments of sociological studies, economics and politics alongside shared facilities for the whole faculty including a collaborative research hub.

Close engagement with the multiple stakeholders created forward looking, flexible learning environments that supports student’s mental health and wellbeing. The design embraces the idea that ‘every learning space should be active’ and includes shallow raked large volume active learning spaces that support both traditional and active learning alongside technology rich group working areas and individual study areas.

Our Interior team have developed a stunning interior design scheme for this flagship higher education facility. This state-of-the-art educational environment provides a mix of formal and informal learning spaces, with a central, iconic drum, located within the atrium to provide larger teaching spaces.

Social spaces are integrated throughout to encourage students to collaborate and use the facility throughout the day.

The BREEAM Outstanding design considers both economic and social sustainability and is a positive contributor to the local environment includes a neighbourhood pocket park and flexible facilities that can be used by both students and local residents.

The building form is a series of overlapping organic curved floor plates that ebb and flow hinting at the site’s history as an old reservoir while the façade of staggered glass planes reflects the world around and the multifaceted nature of the social sciences.


The landscape element will be a key component in the future regeneration of the University estate, creating clarity and connectivity.

The landscape design at the new Faculty of Social Sciences building looks to create a world class public realm.  With the inclusion of social spaces, SUDS systems and perennial planting our concept celebrates modern movement in landscape design.

New green spaces have been created for students and staff, and will be publicly accessible, with extensive tree planting and rain gardens. This resilient planting strategy was developed to play a crucial part in mitigating climate change and help create a healthy environment.

Design highlights throughout the scheme include urban rain gardens, generous bespoke seating and traditional dry-stone walling incorporated throughout the public realm, with a backdrop of perennial planting for visual interest.

Landmark tree planting will help to punctuate the gateways and threshold into the University by their scale and character.  Flowering trees will be strategically placed within key public areas to bring elements of colour and seasonality.

Building on the award-winning public realm scheme for the University of Sheffield Concourse project, a consistent palette of materials help to unify the University Campus public realm.

A consistent palette of materials and landscape materials help to unify the public realm. Both create strong experiential spaces and encourages active and passive activities.   Materials selected create a clean, crisp timeless finish to the scheme.

Opportunities have been considered throughout the scheme to incorporate public art commissions which will compliment both the building and public realm.

"Stakeholder engagement was critical in capturing the specific requirements of all end users and those who would be maintaining the building. …A World Class building is required for staff, researchers and students to work in a collaborative, open environment that has no standard to follow….HLM have been at the forefront of all stakeholder liaison."

Dave Holland, Project Manager

"The Wave is more than just a building for the university. Importantly, this facility allows us to consolidate Social Sciences within a mini-campus, as departments within the facilities will move from a number of our other buildings at the east side of our campus. The Wave is our first net zero building as we work towards the whole University reaching this important milestone. HLM Architects have been, and continue to be, a trusted partner for us to work with and the new building is a culmination of a great team effort!"

Keith Lilley, Director of Estates and Facilities Management

"The ethos of the strategy underpinning the need for the building is to promote collaboration and inter-disciplinarity. This has strongly been adopted and reflected in the design process for the building and the end result. HLM Architects have been a strong conduit in the partnerships developed across the various stakeholders. Colleagues at HLM Architects have understood and captured the ambitions of the Faculty and the Academic mission with pride and awareness for the impact of the building on the legacy of the University and the wider city region."

Laura Armitage, Faculty Estates & Infrastructure Manager

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