Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Grafton Street NHS Car Park in Manchester, England by Sheppard Robson Architects
March 15th, 2017 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Sheppard Robson Architects
Aliva UK was commissioned to develop an eye-catching, 3D-effect façade that would bring vitality to a hospital parking ‘super-hub’ for visitors. Architect Sheppard Robson’s brief was to extend the existing Grafton Street car park and create a striking local landmark for Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Trust, which cares for a million patients every year.
The car park building is normally seen from the side, not face-on, so the architects wanted cladding that would ‘step off’ the building, pushing out a further 800mm.
Sheppard Robson specified a metal façade that would not only enhance security, but also provide a minimum 75% natural air-flow to help the building breathe without the need for mechanical ventilation. This was a vital consideration due to exhaust fumes in the car park.
The architects also wanted each cladding panel to be exactly aligned with a parking bay, giving every vehicle its own gold façade.
As well as the aluminium mesh cladding that spanned the floor spaces of the car park, the architects wanted silver horizontal bands on every other floor.
The final aesthetic challenge was to meet the planners’ and architects’ requirement for a visual ‘story’ for the building at ground level.
What we did
Working with Sheppard Robson’s initial design, Aliva UK developed a gold anodised aluminium expanded mesh façade that stood away from the building to create depth and impact. The gold panels of mesh were each folded to a crisp point, resulting in a façade that could be seen at every angle.
The team addressed a number of technical challenges through innovative technological design and experimentation:
Expanding aluminium and punching it with apertures weakens the metal. Folding it to a perfectly crisp point weakens it further. Aliva UK tested a variety of aperture sizes and folding techniques. The tests needed to show that the cladding could withstand the worst of the elements – rain, wind, snow. At the same time, each fold needed to be perfectly crisp, so that when seen from below, each panel would be exactly aligned. Through prototyping, the team was able to arrive at the final specifications and design.
Installation of the cladding
Aliva UK’s original plan was to secure the cladding to the floor slabs of the car park; however, this was not possible for two reasons.
First, the building was on a gradient. This meant that the silver horizontal bands would appear to be sloped, which would not create the right aesthetic.
Second, if a car were to hit the internal crash barrier at maximum speed, the crash barrier would deform out to 138mm.
To resolve these issues, an entirely bespoke fixing system was designed. This involved hanging the cladding panels from wind posts. The cladding was wrapped around the building without being supported by it.
Despite there being minimal physical interaction between the internal structure of the building and the cladding, the cladding still had to interact with the inside of the building to meet the requirement for each panel to be exactly aligned with a parking bay. Our wind post solution was able to meet this challenge too.
To create a visual story at ground level, Aliva UK’s design for the façade base featured a bespoke, screen-printed urban landscape that created a focal point for visitors arriving at the hospital by car.
While screen printing on intact panels of cladding is comparatively straightforward, ensuring that the images still appeared recognisable on mesh was one of the key challenges here. Again, prototyping helped the team to achieve the desired finish. We expanded and anodised the metal, then built up the screen printed design in several layers.
What the architects say
Mark Antolak, Project Leader at Sheppard Robson said: “We worked closely with Aliva UK on the design for this important façade. Using our concept drawings, they undertook early prototyping work to ensure the design intent and quality were maintained all the way through to installation.”
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