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Bringing art to the heart of the campus

Sheffield Hallam University’s newest campus building boasts a specially commissioned, three-storey-high carving

Posted by Dave Higgitt | February 08, 2015 | Bricks & mortar

Sheffield Hallam University’s Heart of the Campus building is a multi-million-pound facility offering over 7,400 sqm of teaching, study and social space, and is central to the university’s goal of providing high-quality facilities and teaching space for its 35,000 students.

The themes explored in the artwork by artist Christopher Tipping are conveyed through dynamic mark-making and linear drawing, routed into the Rockpanel surface of the building’s facade. The work evokes the history of cutlery and silverware manufacture in the city via techniques associated with it such as engraving and chasing, suggesting the role of an individual maker and the exotic materials they often worked with such as Brazilian rosewood and red deer antler.

The layered images are a recurring theme, appearing in the glazing as well as the façade. The art was incorporated within the west elevation of the design from the initial planning stage and HLM Architects required a rainscreen façade which would support and enhance this, whilst still providing a durable finish. This led to the specification of Rockpanel Rockclad as Michael Spencer and Gemma Wilson from HLM explain: “This was the first time we had worked with Rockpanel facade cladding at our Sheffield office and we found the Rockclad boards delivered both the high-quality finish and adaptability that we required. The product doesn’t expand or contract with atmospheric conditions and is unaffected by moisture, so it needed no special treatment even though the base board was made visible when routing the design. By specifying it with a secret-fix system we were able to maintain the crisp and clean façade needed for the routed artwork.”

Specified in umbra grey and stone grey, the 10mm thick boards were routed by, exposing the compressed stone wool base material to a depth of 2mm. The base material has now weathered from pale yellow-green to dark brown, highlighting the finished artwork.

Artist Christopher Tipping explains: “I wanted to explore the evidence of the handcrafted and extraordinary skills upon which the wealth of the city was based”. The narrative artwork forms an abstract landscape which can be read vertically or in plan, like a map, with forms and shapes redolent of topography, rivers, trees and clouds.

All Rockpanel facades are manufactured from sustainable basalt rock, creating boards which are lightweight and robust. Stone Systems director Mr Liam Hughes says: “We found the Rockpanel façades very easy to work with. Because they’re so light, handling and lifting wasn’t an issue and this, combined with the flexibility of the adhesive system, meant that we were able to complete the installation programme ahead of schedule, helping to keep costs down. The strength of the panels also meant that they adapted easily to changes in the required tolerances on site.”

Design and build contractors Graham Construction oversaw the installation of the façade as part of the construction of the £15.7m new building, which is now home to the university’s faculties of development and society, and health and wellbeing. The project achieved its target BREEAM rating of ‘very good’.

Rockpanel façade cladding is independently certified by the BRE to hold a Green Guide rating of A+ or A, depending on the installation method.

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