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Major transformation adds up to exceptional new home for School of Mathematics

Professor Hugh Brady (The University of Bristol's Vice-Chancellor and President) with Rob Steele (Project Manager - Balfour Beatty) at today's topping out ceremony

Professor Jens Marklof (Head of the School of Mathematics) addresses guests at the topping out ceremony

Artist impression of the completed Fry Building

Press release issued: 23 November 2017

Work to transform a Grade II listed building near the centre of Bristol into a state-of-the-art new home for the University of Bristol’s School of Mathematics is nearing completion after a major renovation and remodelling.

The Fry Building, located on the corner of University Road and Woodland Road, will be fully open from the start of the next academic year in September 2018.

A philanthropic donation from the Wolfson Foundation has helped fund a new 140-seat lecture theatre, and refurbish two additional lecture theatres.

In addition, the new building has research seminar rooms, and a wide variety of purpose-designed spaces to facilitate interaction and collaboration.

The project was also part-funded by a generous philanthropic donation from two Bristol maths alumni, Jonathan and Julie Punter.

The University of Bristol’s Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Hugh Brady, said: “I am very pleased that the Fry Building has received such generous support from The Wolfson Foundation and two maths alumni, Jonathan and Julie Punter.

“Their support will not only provide Bristol with an exciting home for the School of Mathematics, but also serves as recognition of the outstanding quality of our research and teaching.”

The Fry Building, named after the chocolate-making Fry family whose generous donations helped establish the University, will significantly improve the student experience for those studying mathematics as the school is currently located across several sites.

Parts of the site were commissioned as the first group of purpose built academic buildings by the University's direct predecessor, University College Bristol, so are of great significance in the history of the Clifton Campus. The earliest part of the building dates to 1880.

While the historic character of building has been preserved, new additions include an atrium which will link to the new lecture theatre with a roof garden above it.

The atrium will integrate public art in the form of a Voronoi pattern. This Voronoi screen, which also acts as a ‘brise-soleil’, encloses what was originally external walls and has a large glass staircase from which you can enjoy spectacular views of the city.

The development is a key part of the University's capital investment programme.

The building was formerly home to the University’s School of Biological Sciences, which moved to the new Life Sciences building on the corner of St Michael's Hill and Tyndall Avenue two years ago.

Professor Jens Marklof, Head of the School of Mathematics, said: “The Fry Building will provide an outstanding home for mathematics in the heart of the University's precinct, and we are very excited about moving into it.

“We will have facilities for research and teaching befitting a world-leading mathematics department. As well as a suite of lecture theatres, offices and tutorial rooms, there will be a wide variety of new spaces for interaction, carefully designed to foster exciting and creative mathematics.”

Today’s topping-out ceremony was attended by University staff, students, Balfour Beatty, the project’s lead contractor and other guests, including Mr and Mrs Punter, who were both awarded a BSc in Mathematics from Bristol in 1978.

They said: “We were pleased to be able to make a donation to support our University. We hope that future mathematicians will gain as much from their time at Bristol as we did.”

Patrick Finch, Bursar and Director of Estates at the University of Bristol, added: “The Fry Building is one of the University’s most iconic properties so we’re pleased that this project was able to preserve its heritage and history at the same time as creating a truly 21st century home for mathematics, providing our students and staff with the very best facilities.”

Rob Steele, Balfour Beatty Project Director, said: “This is an exciting and significant development in the renovation and extension of the University of Bristol’s Grade II listed Fry Building, with visible changes to the building exterior taking shape.

“The erection of the new innovative sun-protection Voronoi screen, a mathematical equation, required our skilled teams to align 72 bolts and holes simultaneously whilst also suspending the glass reinforced plastic screen from a crane. This is a huge technical achievement and we are delighted to have completed this complex lift ahead of the high-winds reaching the region.” 

Further information

The Wolfson Foundation has been supporting the University of Bristol’s research for more than 40 years. The University has gratefully received over £13.1 million from the Foundation, with a further £1.5 million in confirmed pledges to support vital equipment and capital infrastructure. The University is home to 43 Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award holders.

Investment from the Foundation in the Centre for Nanoscience and Quantum Information has allowed it to grow from 12 staff in 2012 to over 100 today, with over £45 million received in research grants. The School of Mathematics will seek to create a similar snowball effect, and build upon support from the Wolfson Foundation.

The Wolfson Foundation is an independent charity that awards grants to support and promote excellence in the fields of science, health, education and the arts & humanities. Our funds are generated through an endowment. We have awarded over £800 million in grants since our establishment (£1.7 billion in real terms), supporting over 10,000 projects across the UK, all on the basis of expert peer review. Established in 1955, the Wolfson Foundation celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2015.

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