The Site

The site for MK:U is a prime location in Milton Keynes (MK) and is the last undeveloped block in the city centre.

MK is a New Town, established by the UK Government in 1967 as part of a significant wave of construction intended to ease housing shortages following the Second World War.

The settlement was conceived and built in one step – a move that created the consistency that makes the urban form so distinctive. The city’s masterplan is based on a grid of streets enclosing pockets of land approximately 1km by 1km, using infrastructure as the permanent external framework. A combination of strong rectilinear planning and a highly functional and consistent architecture language was applied at every scale in Central Milton Keynes, from its grid plan to the street furniture and landscape design. The urban form of MK is predominantly designed for movement using personal vehicles and is low density, covering a large area in relation to its population size.

MK marked its 50th anniversary in 2017 and is today used as a model for new towns and cities across the world. 

Currently, MK has a population of approximately 267,000 people and is the fastest growing city in the UK. The city has a diverse, multicultural and youthful demographic and its population is expected to increase to 500,000 by 2050

Located at the heart of the Oxford to Cambridge innovation arc, the city is just 30 minutes from London by train and is a key stop on the West Coast mainline rail network. Through its proximity to the M1 motorway and rail network, it is accessible to twenty million people within 60 minutes. 

The city has a reputation for openness and innovation and is recognised for its concentration of high-tech and digital industries. It is at the forefront of the Smart City’ movement and was the first UK city to launch a complete Internet of Things’ infrastructure in 2014, as well as the first to road-test driverless vehicles. A growing number of cultural attractions includes Bletchley Park; the Milton Keynes Museum; The Stables concert venue; The Cowper & Newton Museum; Milton Keynes Theatre; Stadium:MK; and MK Gallery. 

MK:U is a flagship project in the ongoing MK Futures Programme, which aims to continue the exceptional growth and success of the city. The other projects within the Programme include the development of a comprehensive population and infrastructure growth strategy; exploring how MK’s schools and college can give greater focus to STEM subjects; encouraging the use of autonomous, low-emission and electric vehicles; guiding the development of vacant or underused areas of the city; and the creation of a Creative & Cultural Strategy to establish an inclusive cultural identity for the city. 

Credit: MRC / Luke Hayes

The site for MK:U is within a ten-minute walk from Milton Keynes Central Railway Station; the main shopping district of the city, Centre:MK; and The Hub, a mixed-use development with a number of retail, food and beverage and office facilities. 

The plot constitutes an entire city block, of approximately 10.1 hectares, and is bounded by roads and neighbouring city blocks on all four sides.

It presents a significant opportunity to create a landmark development that makes a significant contribution to the city’s masterplan, as well as its social and economic development. 

Competitors should, however, be aware of a number of site constraints, including consideration of how the new development of MK:U will respond to the city’s Classic Infrastructure – the design features which give MK its unique look and feel. 

For more details on the site and context, please read the Search Statement.