New student ‘habitat’

An historic building in the heart of Bristol has been transformed from a tired retail space into a modern facility for University of Bristol students and the public. Beacon House, a Grade II listed building which was previously a Habitat store until it closed in 2011, opened in April 2016 as a student study centre, public reception and cafe after a £12 million investment. The building has been carefully designed to meet the needs of students who increasingly need flexible study spaces in addition to traditional libraries. It features easily moveable furniture so that the purpose of different spaces can be changed, sound-insulated booths to ensure quiet study, and even wireless mobile phone charging points.

Bristol-based firm Midas Construction, part of The Midas Group, has completely renovated the 2643 square metre facility over the last eight months. The project presented a number of challenges, namely the building’s location on a busy main road and the desire to preserve and enhance the listed part of the building, which was built as a hotel in the 1850s. In addition to the listed part of the building, there is also a more modern rear extension, which acted as the main floor space for Habitat. Fitting deeper plan windows to the first floor, removing redundant canopies and cleaning the stonework on the elevations have improved this area.