The University of Leeds’ School of Design has been based in the Clothworkers Building South for over 60 years, teaching and researching design, colour and textile materials. These fields of research with new strands of research meant that over the last 60 years the building was no longer fit for purpose, due to advancements in research technology and equipment.
This refurbishment addressed these issues, with a space analysis of the building identifying underutilised and growing research spaces. This led to the creation of a dedicated digital printing studio as well as colour and lighting laboratories. The existing wet processing laboratory was refurbished for the requirements of new and future equipment, with flexible overhead service gantries. The weaving and innovation studio received new rooflights to improve natural light in its central location in the building, to accompany the delivery of the new research weaving machine.
Prior to the refurbishment, the building lacked the feeling of entering a school of design with unitarian windowless corridors. A large part of the refurbishment has been to introduce viewing windows to research facilities, as well as bringing artwork to the corridors.
Filled with colour
A new entrance has been added to the north elevation of the building, that links with the existing entrance of the opposite building, also occupied by the school, whilst the main entrance has been flooded with light and colour with the introduction of glazed entrance doors and new Amtico flooring, that colour codes the floor levels helping students find their way around the building.
As the entrance and stairwell had not been updated in over 60 years, the flooring had started to crack and show its age. The brief was to revitalise circulation in the area, improve disabled access and also signal to visitors that they were entering a vibrant space of creativity.
The versatility of Amtico’s Signature Collection, with its vivid hues and distinctive abstract designs – such as smoky-effect Umbra Eclipse and luxuriously dark Back to Black Vamp – was of immediate appeal. As the location was such a high-traffic area, the durability of the product was also a significant factor and made it a logical choice for the project.
It was felt that the original layout was confusing to people unfamiliar with the building trying to find their way around, so colour-coded floor levels were introduced over the four storeys. Each stair riser was given the tone of the approaching floor level – for example, fuchsia-hued Marrakech rises to orange Sevilla – while the colours were blended on the half landings.
Ian Whalley, Associate at architectural practice Farrell and Clark, explains the reasons why Amtico’s Signature range was specified for this project: “The stairwell was dark and bland, and the client wanted to introduce visitors to the School of Design as soon as they came through the entrance, and demonstrate its creativity. The multiple colours and laying patterns of the Signature collection, as well as the fact that the wear layer is greater than in other products on the market, all led to Amtico being chosen.
“In the event, it was not only simple to install, but it was also easy to minimise waste. We have used Amtico on major projects many times before, and will most definitely specify the Signature collection again.”
The refurbishment of the building firstly took outdated research facilities and provided future-proofed spaces that can adapt and change with advancements of research technology for the next 60 years. Secondly, it provides circulation spaces in which the school can be creative in demonstrating its ethos.