MediaCityUK and the University of Salford

Author: Gemma Blackman

Pods, hot rooms, preparation areas, hero suites and Christie tiles. This is what is making its way to the students of the University of Salford in September 2011. Unfortunately for me I have just completed my three years of study here but it didn’t stop me from having a little poke around a close-to-completion MediaCityUK on Thursday.

Until now the fact that MediaCityUK really was going to be a hub of media creativity right on my doorstep had never solidified itself in my mind. But a ten minute taxi ride later I was starting to see just how close this really was.

Our guides for the tour were: Andrew Cooper, Academic Director of MediaCityUK, Callum Macdonald, Site Manager for Overbury and newly appointed Operations Director for MediaCity Nick Horan.

Overbury are basically interior designers en masse, boasting sites such as Canary Wharf before winning the bid for this project. With 236 builders working on our four floors alone, it’s easy to see how the building site we visited will be completed in time for the handover on August 29th.

As we walked round each floor the areas in front of us were brought to life with a little imagination. I was most interested in finding the journalism suites and I was not disappointed.

For those of you not familiar with the University of Salford it’s important to put the MediaCityUK building into perspective. The most infamous thing about the Adelphi building, which currently houses the journalism courses, is that it is a maze. After three years I can still be led to a brand new room that I never knew existed and not be able to find it a few hours later.

For the journalism rooms you had to find your way to the basement. I know it sounds easy, just keep going down, but the basement is blocked off into various sections making it virtually impossible to find the same bit twice; and of course in the basement there is no natural light.

Contrast this to what I am about to tell you and you can understand why exactly I am awed by MediaCityUK. On the third floor, in a corner overlooking the MediaCity Studios there is a News Preparation Area, fully equipped newsroom which can connect to the TV and radio rooms in the other floors, a presentation space with adjoining control room with specially made state-of-the-art equipment that wouldn’t be out of place in the BBC and Sky studios, and a huge newsroom the biggest room on the floor. All of these have floor to ceiling windows, air conditioning and every software you could possibly want and dream of as a trainee journalist.

Not to worry if journalism isn’t your cup of tea the other floors have something for everyone, after all the four floors are going to be home to 39 Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses in a few short months. The third floor is also home to the video editing suites, the ground floor has three black-walled studios which can be used for vocal recordings, filming, theatre productions and much more.

By the entrance to this magnificent building is one of the most exciting aspects of the move- The Egg. This is an oval stage in the centre of the ground floor, the perfect place for displays and performances. What makes it so exciting is that a wall can be built in the centre of this zone to make a room used for seminars or two stage areas. It is the wall that is most interesting because it is built out of Christie tiles, a fairly new invention that acts as a projection screen. Films, Twitter feeds and much more can be projected onto the whole wall or onto one tile of it, making it part of the enticing technological developments within the complex.

And this development is not all about the students either. The staff at the University will benefit from magnificent views of all the attractions in the area as well as a transformation of the way they can work. Floors two and three are open plan areas, with pods for semi-private conversations and hot rooms for entirely private discussions.

Academic Director Andrew Cooper, informed us that the floors were designed as such because he wants “everyone, including staff, to feel they can move freely”, and it certainly does give that impression. On the third floor there is a huge open space with the above ITV floors looking into it. This is to help staff and students alike to “use this building as much as possible to display their talents”, and who wouldn’t want to with such an important audience on their doorstep?

It is certainly an inviting prospect for the future creative students of Salford University and potentially the future of media.


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