Duchess of Edinburgh formally opens CCCU Verena Holmes Building


The Duchess of Edinburgh has officially opened Canterbury Christ Church University’s Verena Holmes Building, delivered by Hamilton Architects.

The £65m project, one of the largest science, technology, engineering, health and medicine education facilities in south-east England, incorporates Kent and Medway Medical School.

During the visit, the Duchess toured the building, which provides students with an 18,000m2, four-storey facility with ultra-modern specialist areas including a bio-mechanics lab, simulated hospital wards, X ray suite and anatomy teaching lab.

A complex façade featuring vertical brick piers describes a very direct relationship between the building and its unique historical landscape, with large glazed sections maximising views of UNESCO World Heritage sites St Augustine’s Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral.

There was also an opportunity for the Duchess to see the special ‘Tree of Trees’ planted in memory of Queen Elizabeth II.

Verena Holmes was a pioneering female mechanical engineer, reflecting the University’s ambition to increase diversity and widen opportunities in STEHM education and careers.

Professor Rama Thirunamachandran, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of CCCU, said: “It is not just a facility for the University and the Kent and Medway Medical School, but for the entire south-east region.

“It provides state-of-the-art equipment and technology for our staff and students and also space for experimentation, research and collaboration with our partners in the health sector, sports and engineering industries, local businesses and the wider community.”

The professor went on to say that, ultimately, the project was not about buildings, but about people and the university’s commitment to social justice: “Ensuring that we increase the participation of women in engineering and STEM subjects; ensuring that anyone wishing to practice medicine has the opportunity to do so, regardless of background and experience.

“The building is an enabler for all of us to achieve wider societal objectives and I am really very proud of what we have achieved here collectively.”