Wrekin College approached Baart Harries Newhall with a brief to create a new Business School. From the outset the college had envisaged a strategy of extending an existing block of classrooms.
The college wished to utilise three classrooms in the existing block and supplement these with new facilities (lecture theatre, boardroom and associated facilities) in the proposed extension.
The site prior to development was an area of sloping lawn bounded on the south side by a single storey 1950’s teaching block (with a 1970’s extension) and on the north side by a memorial avenue of small trees. The site is set back approximately 50 metres from Sunderland Road and is visible from the road. The existing classroom block formed an irregular ‘C’ shape in plan. The design proposal was to provide an extension along the open side. Due to the irregularity of the shape of the existing plan the new wing was set parallel to the memorial avenue.
To the north the new extension formed a new frontage to Sutherland Road announcing the new Business School to the public realm. It also screened the generally poor visual quality of the existing buildings. To the South the position of the new building created a sunny courtyard space. Wrekin College is is known as ‘The School in the Garden’ owing to its extensive grounds and playing fields. The extension was conceived as a ‘pavilion’ in the landscape – so it was important that it is read as a discrete form despite being an extension of an existing building. To achieve this transition between the new and the existing building is treated as a separate architectural element.
The new lecture theatre and the board room required generous ceiling heights. The board room and lecture room sit at opposite ends of the new building – the lecture theatre is square in plan, the board room is circular forming a counterpoint. These are set beneath an oversailing roof. These two spaces are expressed in solid brick forms externally. Between the two forms is a large foyer space with a backdrop of small ancilliary rooms expressed as an object set beneath the roof, this group of rooms are clad externally in polished blockwork – with high level windows above to increase the transparency of the building and illusion of the roof floating above.
To overcome the slope of the site the new building is set on a plinth formed from concrete paving slabs. The external landscape essentially involved the re-instatement of the lawns around the new building – completing it as a pavilion in the garden.
Use of galvanizing
The form of the building is conceived as a series of discreet objects / rooms arranged on a raised plinth beneath an over sailing roof supported by 10 steel columns. The building sits within a beautifully landscaped campus and can be viewed from all directions with the North Façade highly visible from Sutherland Road. The steel structure is exposed and made with great precision, with all welds ground down and all fixings either concealed or counter sunk flush with the surface of the steel.
The columns are cantilevered from the base (to avoid cross bracing) and directly support a ring beam. The roof ‘slides’ passed the ring beam and terminates with a further exposed eaves beam set along the roof edge. The aim was to create a contemporary interpretation of classical architecture – a trabeated structure realised in modern materials. The finish to the steel needed to be both durable and refined. The exposed steel roof structure and columns were first hot dip galvanised and then factory finished with Galvacoat to provide a high quality finish with the benefit of colour longevity. This finish looks absolutely stunning and has the benefit of corrosion resistance, low maintenance and longevity – all of which meets the clients brief for a sustainable building.
The precise, smooth, exposed structural steel finished in Galvacoat offers a wonderful counterpoint to the richly textured hand made red bricks used for the walls beneath the roof structure and behind the columns.
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