Explore the latest projects from the UK’s commercial interiors industry, featuring the best of workspace, hospitality, living and public sectors.

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Roman history and young futures meet at Enso student living

Ekho Studio ventures into the world of student accommodation with a light-filled, interactive student hub in the heart of Colchester.


2 min read

Photography by Gunner Gu

Based in the centre of Colchester and just minutes away from the University of Essex campus, Ekho Studio’s first step into PBSA (Purpose-Built Student Accommodation) encompasses 282 student rooms and a handful of bright, inviting communal areas. Residents and visitors are greeted by a shared amenity space on the ground floor, with thoughtfully designed spaces including a spacious lounge, tea point, gaming area and on-site gym. Aiming to incorporate balance and flexibility, these shared areas are punctuated with quieter zones promoting focus and relaxation, with co-working spaces that allow for both individual study and team collaboration.

When creating a concept for the new build, the Ekho Studio team – led by founding partner Rachel Withey – took inspiration from Colchester’s rich historic past. The city was recorded in the Roman era as Britain’s first official settlement and, later, as Britain’s first city and capital. Certain structures from this period remain intact, which the studio used to create a consistent design language for the project – an arch motif appears horizontally and vertically throughout the interiors, while repeat patterns with a woven form or fringed edge suggest the layered textiles of the old city.

Enso’s distinctive colour palette also blends Roman-era references with local natural colours, celebrating warm, earthy tones. As Withey explains, “We emphasised the toasty burnt oranges and varying shades of pink that streak the traditional earthenware material of terracotta, and complimented this with the natural greens and blues that reflect Colchester’s surrounding countryside.” This palette is flipped for subtle differentiation in the gaming area, where a sizeable U-shaped sofa and white incidental tables sit on a muted geometric piece from Gan Rugs. Ekho also selected art that adds a graphic layer to the project, employing forms or outlines that echo the shape of arches and Roman pottery, as well as dramatic indoor plants to add natural punctuation to the space.

The studio collaborated with branding agency J2 to create the unique Enso branding, where a lower case ‘n’ alludes once again to the arch motif. This large logo is in-filled with planting to establish an immediate outside-in biophilic connection. Striving further towards sustainability in the project, Ekho also opted for a variety of other environmentally conscious materials including recycled wallpapers, water-based paint finishes with no chemical emissions, living walls made from moss, and fabrics made from hemp and nettle.

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