The shiny and new luxury student accommodation within Fusion Tower on Rupert Street would be a completely alien concept to anybody who was a student even a few years ago.
Owned by a private developing conglomerate who own multiple similar buildings across the country, it is a new form of student living a world away from the dingy and derelict 60s buildings of most student halls.
Upon arrival at a launch event, I am handed a flute of Laurent Perrier (a welcome contrast to the standard of student living to which I am accustomed) and hurriedly ushered up to my room. Everything in the room practically glistens and gleams as I walk through the doorway and I’m rather reluctant to sully this perfection with my belongings. Alas, it had to be done.
Oh what it would be like to live in such opulence, where one could pop downstairs after dinner and make use of the in house gym or frolic with friends in the games room. Memories came floating back of my dingy JCR – Junior Common Room – in halls and its unnervingly sticky floors…
After my brief reverie lamenting the state of my student life, I joined the party downstairs. Sitting down, I encountered a stained pile of brochures documenting the price list, which have been artfully strewn across a drinks laden table. After some inspection, it seemed that I had been placed in the cheapest room in the building, and yet it was still a palace compared to the putrescent hovel that was my room in first year.
The entire of the waiting staff ironically seemed to be comprised of students. Waiter Jack, a student from UWE said: “I couldn’t afford to live here. But even if I could, I’d probably rather live in a house with my mates to be honest.”
With a cursory glance across the dimly lit and bustling room, it appeared to be filled with an eclectic collection of Barbour jackets, distressed leather and over priced suits. Most of the congregation was made up of investors and advertising agents. Students were supposedly invited to join the party at 8pm, but they were few and far between, leaving me to feel a tad out of place despite my stilettos.
A quick and rather aggressively competitive game of air hockey later, I was able to have a chat with head of marketing Adam Horwood who is also the self professed “go to person when it comes to the interior design and architecture of all of our sites as well.”
He began answering my questions with a gusto that could only be manufactured and made sure to say, “the property marketing awards are coming up and we have been shortlisted”.
“The fusion student brand is all about lifestyle. There’s plenty of other options out there for students but we feel what we’re providing is the next generation of student accommodation. So, if you look at the bedrooms, they’re at a level of specification, which is akin to perhaps that of a young professional living in an urban area like London.”
As a student from London, with friends who are currently working after university, I’m not so sure where he is getting his information regarding this anonymous group of ‘young professionals’. The ones I know certainly don’t live like this…
“What we want to do is provide our residents and our students with a lifestyle that can’t be matched anywhere else. So what we do is, put private cinemas and gyms for use by the residents only. We have games rooms, pool tables, table football tables, study rooms… if you imagine it, we’re working to do it.”
“We’re installing a skate park on the roof of a project we’re currently working on.”
He also told me that the company was “trying to push the boundaries, supplementing the modern day needs of the students. There’s no reason why students shouldn’t have this kind of life.”
Of course, he happily ignored the concept that the reason most students don’t have a life this is perhaps due to lack of funding.
In response to whether or not these developments are aimed at wealthier international students, Horwood responded with the fair point that “the values of international students are different to those of British students. If you move to live in a different country, security and safety are going to be high up on your list of priorities, and that’s why they are attracted to buildings like ours.”
However, this is seems like an easy answer to a larger question of whether or not these buildings are exclusive to those who can afford to live here. When accommodation is scarce at Bristol University, where last year students were forced to share rooms due to over subscription, surely this occupation of local land is unhelpful?
This line of questioning only rendered the response of: “These buildings are exclusive in their essence because they are exclusive to students.” Not exactly the answer I was looking for.
It seems that there is a wilful ignorance by developers that students simply cannot afford to live in this sort of comfort, and why should they care? These apartments are for those who can afford it.
However, I would argue that the clinical and perfectly manicured nature of these accommodation blocks, are fundamentally alien to the British University Experience.
There is no doubt that Fusion Tower would be a lovely place to live, and is most definitely luxurious. But who could pass up the opportunity to deal with the grit and the grime that is first year. I personally feel that the mould and the vomit that I encountered in my halls are now very much a part of my character.
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