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The student newspaper of Imperial College London

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Issue 1850 (PDF)
The student newspaper of Imperial College London

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Great Hall redevelopment plans underway

Student societies express concerns about being displaced from venue for duration of project.

Photo: Imperial College London


in Issue 1850

A refurbishment of Imperial’s Great Hall is in the early stages of planning, with work projected to start next summer pending approval next month. 

The project, led internally by the Education Office, aims to address the need for more spaces for education and to improve the existing functionality of the hall, but has attracted concern over the potential impact on club activities and Summer-term exams during the closure.

A key element of the project will be the installation of removable dividers, allowing the hall to be divided into three separate areas, while retaining its original purpose as an event space. 

Plans so far also include separate audio-visual systems for education and events, and extra storage for musical instruments and technical equipment.

Music societies have expressed concerns about being displaced from the hall for the duration of the project, and about the promised upgrades themselves.

Society members have taken exception to the use of dividers to turn the hall into a lecture space, saying that it would impinge on their ability to hold music events. ICSO Hall Manager Ben Bishop said that the arrangement ‘is highly problematic, as many clubs and societies that use the hall need a large space, not just one-third [of the venue].’

He added that no suggestions have yet been made for temporary storage of instruments and alternative rehearsal venues during refurbishment work.

He worried that it would be ‘nearly impossible to rehearse [even] if the space is merely 10 minutes away’ from the current storeroom in the Great Hall.

‘Even a couple of flights of stairs will completely derail a setup and pack-down operation due to some percussion being too heavy and delicate to lift, and what was a simple pre- and post-rehearsal activity will outlast the rehearsal itself.

‘We could have at least had some earlier and better communication from the College, as what could have been a fruitful operation is currently looking like a logistic nightmare.’

Another issue being raised is the disruption of finals during refurbishment work, as some students sit end-of-year exams in the Great Hall.

Imperial College Union’s officer trustees, who were briefed on the plans by the university, sought to allay fears surrounding the venue’s temporary closure.

Union Deputy President (Education) Yi Yang said: “The Centre for Timetabling and other offices are looking for sites on campus or external sites close to Imperial as replacement venues for exams.

“They'll make sure the sites meet all requirements of exam conditions to ensure no student is impacted by this change.”

The student union will work with societies to mitigate the impact of refurbishment work on societies which host events in the Great Hall.

Union Deputy President (Clubs & Societies) Christian Cooper said: “The aim will be, in the leadup to closure, to make sure that all the key student groups impacted have been consulted. [We will] make sure that we can work with [them] to come up with an alternate venue. 

“Because this is already on our radar more than a year in advance, we shouldn’t have any issues.”. 

Felix understands that planning will reach RIBA Stage 4 – the final stage before work begins – in the coming weeks. The renovation is planned to end in September 2026.

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