A material surface for the facade of the University of Hertfordshire’s Science Building

Like a castle that dominates its territory (fig. 1), the new building (completion is expected in early 2016) of the School of Life and Medical Sciences at the University of Hertfordshire, located in Hatfield roughly 35km north of London, rises symbolically in College Lane.

The building (fig. 2) answers the need to transform and develop the Campus and is part, as well as clear symbol (fig. 3), of a comprehensive project that began in 2012 and will continue through the next decade (fig. 4), which includes a new main lobby and Hutton Hub student center, construction of new student and faculty housing, parking lots and conference centers, and state of the art laboratories and social spaces.

The architectural and expressive choices made by the London-based firm Sheppard Robson (with Headquarters in Manchester, Glasgow, Abu Dhabi) – the full project includes the Science Building, multi-storey car park, boulevard, a square and other associated infrastructures – are in sharp contrast to the architectural style of the pre-existing buildings, which stretch harmoniously through the English countryside, so as to create a new identity for the teaching of science.

“Our portfolio of higher education projects – ranging from full-scale estate strategies to specialist buildings – continues to adapt to the ever-changing political and economic landscapes that shapes how estates departments approach development.

“The practice has a track record of engaging with the latest pedagogic trends and research.”

This is combined with a deep under standing of the tradition, culture and heritage of the higher education sector, to deliver award-winning, inspirational buildings and spaces”.

An emotional coating
The Science Building, on the one hand, fully expresses its function through a maximum reduction of the elements, while on the other, the choice of an ‘emotional’ coating (fig. 5), linked to materials that resonate with revisited local traditions, addressing the facade’s theme with suggestive implications. The building’s ‘skin’ – with the exclusion of the north wall – is composed of a double facade (fig. 6) whose external part is composed of rectangular modules of drilled metal  panels (fig. 7), which, in addition to acting as solar shades, create a ‘waved’ effect thanks to  the disposition  “open/close“ of the rectangular panels (fig. 8). The internal wrapper is a glass parallelepiped with exposed steel stringcourses.

The southwest corner marks the entrance (fig. 9), obtained by a hollowing out both the parallelepiped in bottom half as well as the top half, in which a symbolic tree will be placed.

The characteristic coating of the drilled metal panels is obtained with a special powder coating – Patina collection by Adapta Color, based in Pensicola, Spain, color Turquoise Cooper – accentuates the facades dynamic ‘wave’ effect which varies with the incidence of the light and the perspective of the observer (fig. 10 e 11). The bicolor effect obtained is very ‘material’ as it creatively reproduces oxidized copper (fig. 12).

The low environmental impact powder coating creates a suggestive effect, which would otherwise be difficult to achieve, except and at an extremely high cost, using copper, the inspired material.

It is important to note that construction materials must meet specification and certification requirements, quality control related concepts arising in industrial mass production.

In addition to the compliance already present in previous directives, the so-called ‘CE marking’ for all construction materials, Construction Products Regulation, Cpr 305/11/Ue of the EU Parliament and the Counsel, now includes a product performance declaration, in terms of both energy and durability.

The range of Patina finishes satisfies the durability requirements in the practice of architecture: available in 48 effects/colors (fig. 13), approved in class one by Qualicoat and available upon request in class two superdurable – the principal characteristics are outlined in the technical data sheet. All colors are extremely durable and conserve their brilliance, unlike other oxidized materials they do not stain or leave a residue, it has a natural feel, and rust effects can be created even on light aluminum structures. A solution which is combines environmental-friendly and economical criteria, in both the production and maintenance as it prevents oxidation problems resulting from prime materials (copper, corten and other materials that deteriorate over time).