Creating a sensitive link between a modern extension and a beloved historic building is a difficult challenge architects can be confronted with. This was something Powell Dobson Architects, working with the Grade II Listed Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea, needed to address when designing a major new extension.
The art gallery is one of the best-loved and most architecturally significant buildings in Swansea, and it was imperative that its heritage was preserved during the renovation.
The major project involved adding a new gallery, community and education rooms, a lecture theatre and screening room, conservation studios and collection stores to the existing gallery – a Neoclassical brick and stone building completed in 1909. The works also created a new street level entrance, welcoming visitors with a much larger and brighter reception space.
In creating the extension, the designers were keen to preserve the impressive symmetry of the original facade, and this meant creating a sense of physical separation externally between the extension and the gallery itself. At the same time, in order to deliver the best experience for visitors, the two elements needed to be well-connected internally, with people able to flow freely between the two.
A solution was found by linking part of the extension, set back from the buildings’ facades, using Pilkington Planar low-profile structural glazing. Pilkington Planar is a type of glazing technology, originally developed by Pilkington, that has become more and more popular over the last decade, and now features in many high-profile public sector projects across the world.
Known worldwide for its strength, safety and stunning aesthetics, Pilkington Planar gives architects design flexibility to create bright and attractive working environments, with more light and a greater feeling of space.
The Pilkington Planar structural glazing system helps create a flush glass surface. It does this by using stainless steel fittings housed in countersunk holes to fix the glass facade back to the structure, instead of using the more conventional framed systems. The result is a fully engineered and weatherproof system using the minimum of structural components and offering maximum visual clarity.
Maximising natural light exposure
Structural glazing is becoming a sought-after addition to heritage building refurbishments, where its low-profile fittings mean it does not obstruct historical architectural features, yet can breathe new life into an old building. It can be used to link old and new buildings seamlessly, as well as helping to preserve older structures by providing an additional element of protection to the building envelope.
The design of the structural glazing at Glynn Vivian Art Gallery has enabled two elements to connect on three levels, making the building feel unified to visitors while also allowing the historic facade to be appreciated in isolation from outside. The glazing also extends at ground level around the front of the extension, allowing light to flood into the new entrance area.
To the right-hand-side of the historic building is a garden space, which will be allowed to grow into a green oasis for the city centre. A glazed section of wall opening onto the street allows passers-by a glimpse of the garden and the sculptured artworks it contains.
Maximising insulation using Pilkington K Glass
In order to maximise insulation of the newly-created space, and ensure high levels of structural strength, the Pilkington Planar double-glazed units, featuring one pane of 12mm toughened glass and another of 13.5mm laminated glass, was used. Pilkington K Glass was incorporated into the laminated inner pane of the unit construction, a low-emissivity on-line coating to reduce the amount of radiated heat lost from the building, further enhancing the energy performance of the space. Using Pilkington K Glass offers 30% better insulation than standard clear float in regular units, offering architects a reliable solution for meeting Building Regulations for energy efficiency.
The frameless glazing was supported by a series of laminated fins created from 21.5mm-thick glass using the Planar SentryGlas system. These are connected to the glazing units with low-profile stainless steel bolts and deliver high levels of structural strength while maintaining the transparency of the system, contributing to its minimal appearance.
Structural glazing is the ideal solution for extending iconic and historic buildings, as it allows new routes in and out of them to be created with minimal visible intervention.
The finished masterpiece
This extension is an excellent example of structural glazing completed successfully and it’s clear that the two parts of the building, although separated by more than 100 years in age, work together as one.
The new extension at Glynn Vivian enhances the experience for visitors without compromising the historic facade that has been so well known to people in Swansea for generations. The glazed link between the buildings plays a big part in that. By striking the right combination of design, manufacturer and installer, architects can maximise the true value of structural glazing and successfully see their vision come to life.