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UCL Main Building

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Title: UCL Main Building  
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Subject: History of University College London, University College London, Filming at University College London, Woburn Square, Gower Street, London
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UCL Main Building

The Main Building at University College London, includes the Octagon, Quad, Cloisters, Main Library, Flaxman Gallery and the Wilkins Building. The North Wing, South Wing, Chadwick Building and Pearson Building are also considered part of the main UCL building.

The UCL Main Building is the centre of the UCL campus
North Cloisters, UCL (1980s)
The UCL Quad, part of the main campus, in front of the Slade School of Fine Art and the Main Building housing the Library, the astronomy shed is to the right with a sliding roof


In 1827, a year after the founding of UCL, construction of the Main Building began on the site of the old Carmarthen Square. The Octagon Building is a term used for the whole of the Main Building, but more appropriately for a central part of it. At the centrepiece of the building is an ornate dome, which is visible throughout the immediate area. The Octagon was designed by the Architect William Wilkins, who also designed the National Gallery. The original plans by Wilkins called for a U shaped enclosure around the Quad (square). These plans however were not completed until the 20th century. The Main Building was finally finished in 1985, 158 years since the foundations were laid, with a formal opening ceremony by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.[1]


The Wilkins Building is a term used for the whole of the Main Building, but more appropriately for a central part of it. The Octagon dome houses the central hall of the University Main Library, which contains casts from the John Flaxman casts-collection and a mural depicting the construction of UCL in a mythical scene with Jeremy Bentham overlooking the plans.


Facing Gower Street, the Quadrangle, abbrievated as the 'Quad', is an enclosed square of paths, grass and a few disabled car parking bays. There are a large number of benches as well as two decommissioned astronomy observatories.


The enclosed north and south cloisters connect the Octagon dome to the north and south wings of the quad respectively. They are one of the main thoroughfares of the College, and accommodate a series of exhibitions and events throughout the year (for example shows from students of the Slade School of Art and from the UCL special collections). To the north of the north cloisters is the Housman Room, which is a staff common room. To the south of the south cloisters is the auto-icon of Jeremy Bentham.

The Wilkins Building

The Wilkins Building refers specifically to the part of the building built during the lifetime of the architect William Wilkins. It does not include the later, U-shaped extensions around the Quad. Although these were designed by Wilkins they were not finished until 1985. Therefore the Wilkins Building refers to the oldest sections of the Main Building: the center part of the main building which includes the UCL Main Library, the dome, the Flaxman Gallery and the Cloisters. The Wilkins Building is grade I listed.

The Main Library

The Main Library contains UCL's collections relating to arts and humanities, history, economics, public policy and law.[2] The Flaxman Gallery, a collection of sculptures and paintings by artist John Flaxman is located inside the Main Library in the Octagon Building under UCL's central dome.


  1. ^ Landmarks
  2. ^ UCL Library Services - Main Library

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