Friday 15th January saw a number of alumni back on campus for the official opening of the new Warwick Students' Union building. The Union has undergone a number of changes in its relatively short history but this is the most dramatic transformation featuring as it does, the complete redevelopment of the Union South building.
Despite the fact that former Vice-Chancellor Jack Butterworth once stated that 'The Students' Union will never have its own building' (a comment permanently etched onto the walls of the Union's new pub), the old Union building was at the heart of the campus, a focal point for most students' time at Warwick.
When the closure of the old Union building was announced in 2008, over 1,500 alumni came back to campus to attend Raze, a party in its honour. The aim of that evening was to send the building off in style and to party there one last time. Guests spanned the entire life of the Union, some of whom remembered when it was first opened whilst others were coming back to campus for the first time after graduating the previous year.
That old building meant different things to different people, it was a music venue, a place for political debate, somewhere to grab a cheap meal, the setting for Top Banana and a source of advice and welfare information. Unfortunately it was also coming towards the end of its useful life, in need of investment and improvement and no longer fit for purpose.
Designed for just 2,000 students, as many alumni will know, the old SU building had trouble coping with the demands of the 20,000 students on campus today. Following the investment of £11 million and 18 months work the new building is a world away from the 70s-style building many Warwick graduates will remember. The old building lacked style, space and on obvious way in. It is fitting that the most used student building on campus will now be an attractive modern facility which serves both as the heart of the campus and the centre of a student's Warwick experience. The new building is squarely at the centre of campus, featuring as it does a stunning contemporary frontage overlooking the Piazza.
Central to the new building is a glass-fronted cafe which spills out onto the Piazza. The copper roof hovering above the Piazza will also house a stylish terrace bar with a new food outlet and pool room on the upper floor, overlooking the exciting new atrium space. The eye-catching copper roof has provided the name for the new 2,000 capacity nightclub. The Copper Rooms were named following a student vote and opened in June 2009.
The rebuild has seen extensive improvements, including new retail outlets and entertainment and social spaces:
- The Terrace Bar - a stylish, cool, contemporary new socialising space
- The Bread Oven - a bespoke sandwich bar and bakery
- Curiositea - a vintage tea shop offering a variety of traditional refreshments
- King Edward's Potato Emporium - located in the new atrium, serving jacket potatoes
- The aforementioned Copper Rooms - a four-roomed multi-purpose performance area, nightclub, chill-out area and bar
- The Dirty Duck - a modern take on the traditional pub, serving real, freshly cooked, value-for-money food
The launch event included speeches from the University's Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Thrift and former Students' Union President Kat Stark as well as performances from various student societies.