The Sibson Building
University of Kent, Canterbury

The Sibson Building is a new five-storey building housing the University's Business and Maths departments providing academic and research workspaces, teaching rooms, lecture theatres, MBA and IT suites, a reception area, a café, and social learning spaces. The building is mostly an in-situ reinforced concrete frame and includes high quality exposed surfaces in many areas.

The lecture theatres at the centre of the W-shaped building are large and column-free, with exposed concrete hand-shaped structures on the ceiling spanning 18m. The hands are both a deliberate and dramatic expression of the structural form and provide a natural engineering solution for minimising the weight of the structure.

The palms of each hand spring from a major shear wall at the centre of the building, and each of the fingers taper along their length and project above the general structural slab level to increase head height in the spaces below. Thin concrete slabs infill the space between the fingers to provide a structural platform for the floors above.

The sculptural form of the hands was made possible by the ability to control and shape the curves and tapers of the double-boarded timber formwork. Two carpenters crafted the formwork for all four hands, working in isolation from the rest of the concrete frame and taking complete ownership of this centrepiece.

The large lecture theatre is a separate building and is housed in a steel frame with long span trusses to the roof. The internal atrium has glulam beams to the roof, and Cross-Laminated Timber walkways in between rooflights.

The building has been rated BREEAM "Excellent".

Completed 2017.

Project Information


University of Kent


Penoyre & Prasad




Quintin Lake


Canterbury Society Design Award, New Building Outside a Conservation Area 2018
RIBA Award 2018
RIBA South East Award 2018
RIBA South East Building of the Year Award 2018
RIBA South East Project Architect of the Year Award 2018
AJ Architecture Awards Higher Education Project of the Year 2017