Bond Bryan Architects was originally appointed to develop Sheffield Hallam University’s Charles Street project back at the tail end of 2009 after winning a national design competition, attracting over 100 applicants, held by SHU and Turner and Townsend to determine the lead designers of the scheme.
During the extremely challenging years that would follow, which would include a major recession, the introduction of increased university student fees – and the associated uncertainty following this – political indecision with local and national Government changes and a series of necessary client adjustments to maintain the integrity of the scheme, the project endured. Sheffield Hallam University and its project management team had an unwavering desire to bring this scheme to life and now complete, it forms a gateway development for the university’s city centre campus.
Bond Bryan Architects provided full architectural and lead designer services for the Charles Street project from inception to completion (RIBA stages 1-7), managing an extremely complex set of planning and conservation requirements due to the nature of a tight city centre site within a conservation area, the Cultural Industries Quarter (CIQ), Sheffield. The site also sits adjacent a Grade II Listed building, Butcher Works, that forms a key heritage asset of the city and a key contextual issue that the design would need to respond to.
The project’s brief was developed by a shared collective vision between the client and Bond Bryan Architects of creating a landmark building that encourages and supports innovative forms of teaching and learning.
Housing the Faculty of Development and Society, including the majority of the university’s Department for Teacher Education, from the outset a key part of the brief was developing environments that would maximise the opportunity to deliver stimulating learning spaces. Through collaborative research, BBA has provided a state-of-the-art building that supports the changing pedagogical needs of the faculty, within a flexible and inspiring environment.
The design concept is extremely legible in that it uses the trace (palimpsest) of an historic lane on the site as an urban design driver for the atrium space. Brown Lane is a freely accessible route throughout the project enabling members of the public to engage and interact with the university. The route itself functions as an extremely important showcase and ‘binding’ space for the building. It is the social heart space of the scheme and also serves as a mixing space for open, informal social/learning zones either side of lightweight bridge links.
Two flexible teaching blocks are positioned either side of the lane at high-level, clad in transparent and translucent glass Reglit panels. These cubes allow natural daylight to penetrate the teaching and office spaces whilst providing an iconic visual identity to the building. Creating an impressive presence during the daylight, in the evening bespoke LED Lumaglass light fittings bring to life a canvas of light and depth within a barcode design that graduates from the main entrance, creating a landmark development on a key route within the city centre.
At the base, the scheme opens out with full-height glazing to two storeys showcasing the educational and social facilities within, creating an active frontage for the university within the city. These spaces engage with the community and building users with an exciting double-height public cafe space, social learning zones, public-facing office and meeting spaces as well as informal learning spaces.
Brickwork is a key component of the building and its context. Bond Bryan Architects approached the design and detailing of this element as an opportunity to play with a more contemporary design that attempts to reflect patterns found within the wrought iron detailing of the Butcher Works building adjacent. All bricks for the project were provided and made bespoke by Forterra in its Wilnecote factory in Staffordshire and installed by Marlborough Brickwork contractors. Working alongside the specialist, BBA utilised a pattern of projecting headers with single and double cant brickwork to create depth and address scale and massing. The completed elevations provide a real sense of place within the city’s CIQ and ensure a distinct dialogue with the listed building.
The building is topped off with a unique roofscape and roof garden to reflect the historical significance of the site and takes advantage of Sheffield’s unique topography by creating a ‘landmark’ within the city and a ‘beacon’ for education for the university. The roof ‘pods’ are clad in corten rusted steel, reflecting the industrial heritage of the site, representing the jagged north lights of the old mesters' workshops used by the master craftsmen of the time.
These dynamic spaces are used primarily as conference and teaching facilities for staff and student engagement, with exclusive views into the city and back out towards parkland, they provide the building its unique identity and a significant presence within the city skyline.
The proposal at Charles Street provides a new building for the Faculty of Development and Society and includes a 350-seat lecture theatre, open-plan office spaces, general teaching and meeting rooms, multiple large social hub spaces and a public pedestrian route as well as a cafe at ground floor. The complex briefing process required to deliver this building was developed and managed by the BBA team.
Central to its approach was therefore working with the university to develop a consultation plan that would allow BBA to engage with all levels of the university; from the senior management and facilities teams, to each of the end-user departments. Utilising specialists in space needs' analysis and briefing, BBA led the consultation process, starting with a series of visioning workshops to explore the university’s education vision. Drawing both on the experience of working with over 100 educational institutions, as well as examples from around the world, these workshops tested and challenged the existing preconceptions of the type of teaching space required.
The original client brief stated a requirement to link the existing Arundel building and the proposed Charles Street building education departments via a bridge link. As part of a public art proposal discussed with the council, BBA approached local Interior and Product Designer Corin Mellor, of David Mellor Design, to collaborate on the bridge design. Historically, the site was an old cutlery manufacturing location on which David Mellor previously had a workshop, so Corin and his team were excited to get involved. They created a stunning concept that reflects the new and old of Sheffield’s industry.
This final proposal – developed in collaboration between David Mellor Design, the specialist subcontractor and BBA – is based around the idea of a passage between the new and the old across Eyre Lane. The ‘ribs’ are constructed of laser cut polished stainless steel and represent the ‘new’. This echoes Sheffield’s cutlery works within the CIQ. The structure is encased with corten rusted steel. This replicates the roof pod cladding material and represents the ‘old’, echoing detailing of the blast furnaces and crucibles used in the steelmaking industry.
Inherent sustainability was a key component of the design and at the outset of the project BBA’s team held a sustainability workshop with the university to determine some shared achievable goals, measures to reduce environmental impact during construction, and throughout the life of the building, and clear targets that actually affect the design process and running of the building.
Simple and effective sustainability goals were put in place to ensure the team achieved a minimum 20% renewable target. Working alongside services engineers from the university, external consultant teams and the contractors, BBA developed a strategy utilising photovoltaic panels on the saw-toothed roof with green roofs to reduce run-off and provide biodiversity. Heating and cooling systems, which utilise the exposed thermal mass of the building structure, displacement ventilation systems with heat recovery and rainwater recovery systems, were all aspects of a comprehensive approach to environmental design, which began at the outset of the scheme.
Matt Hutton, Associate Director and Lead Deisgner, said: “This project has been a labour of love for the whole design team and we believe the results speak for themselves. The opportunities provided by the building and the flexibility in teaching and learning methods available will undoubtedly enable the university to be at the forefront of education delivery for many years into the future.”