Oct 23, 2019 Last Updated 10:52 AM, Aug 14, 2019

Barbican Podium receives special commendation at The Brick Awards

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The Brick Awards last year celebrated a huge range of exciting architecture projects, all with one quality in common: excellent use of brick. One project which received a special commendation was the Barbican Podium in London.


The paving contractor, A T Knotts & Sons, used specially developed clay pavers to complete the space, which was designed by Bickerdike Allen Partners. Quarry tiles were specified, which are usually used for floors where a very durable material is required.

Work began on this renovation of the Barbican paving area in late 2013. The requirements were to maintain the general appearance of the paving while freshening up the look of the area and delivering good slip resistance. An astonishing 280,000 tiles were needed to surround the Grade II listed building.

Tiles that have been laid in the project in the past vary in colour, depending on when they were laid. The architects’ objective was to select colours that were in keeping with this theme, but also introducing more warmth and interest across the large expanses to be paved. Local residents and planners were consulted, and the decision was taken to mix the three colours together in a random formation, using a 40:40:20 quantity ratio. The specific tiles selected were Brown Antique, Brown Brindle and Blue Brindle in colour.

During the build process, the previous tiles, Hawkins Brown Brindle 215 x 102.5mm quarry tiles, which were laid from the 1980s onwards, were removed. In this way, the waterproofing and insulation processes could be restarted from a high level of quality, in order to maximise durability. There was also another issue to tackle, as the old brick waffle tiles, which provided slip resistance on the walkways, often gathered water in their grooves. Their gradual wearing down due to water saturation had made them visually displeasing. The brick and tile manufacturer resolved this issue by using a tile which achieved a significantly higher slip resistance than the existing smoothfaced and waffle tiles, with a mean USRV of 68. In this way, the original waffle tiles could be removed as they were no longer needed.

The project is a delight to behold and demonstrates that clay paving has an enduring appeal, especially when used to contrast with and bring warmth to concrete structures. The use of the BDA member’s clay tiles have set the standard high for when other parts of the Barbican Estate are renewed in future years. As a building material in general, using quarry tiles is a sound investment as they are sure to last longer than many other building counterparts, in addition to their array of aesthetically pleasing qualities.

Brick Award winners in recent years have included the London School of Economics’ Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Turnmill Building in Clerkenwell.

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