Arts school raises the roof

The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (Lipa) has created a new performance space by enclosing an outdoor courtyard using a large, structurally glazed rooflight.

Established by Sir Paul McCartney and co-founder Mark Featherstone-Witty in 1996, the institute was created following a £multi-million refurbishment of a grammar school attended by the former Beatle in the 1950s, the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys.

Today it is one of the preeminent performing arts higher-education institutions in the UK, with almost 1,000 enrolled students, many of them from countries around the world.

The 160m2 new space will allow students to host dramatic, musical and dance performances using the facades of its existing buildings as a backdrop, while also benefiting from the large amount of natural light that floods the courtyard.

The rooflight was created using the Pilkington Planar structural glazing system, employing a series of four toughened and laminated glass fins to transfer the weight of the glass to the surrounding structures.

This avoided the need to use any steel elements to deliver maximum light transmission and clarity, and also to complement the aesthetics of the wider building.

Architect Maggie Mullan said: “The effect of the rooflight is to transform what was previously a linking outdoor area into a flexible, beautiful space that the institute will be able to use for a host of different purposes for years to come.

“The Pilkington Planar system with its inobtrusive countersunk flush stainless steel point fixings, along with the structural glass fins, allowed us to achieve our aims with minimal aesthetic impact on the much-loved character of the existing building.”

The roof glazing was made up of double glazed units featuring 10mm-thick Pilkington Suncool 66/33 THS outer pane with a 16mm-wide air-filled cavity and an inner pane of 13.5mm-thick laminated glass.

All the glass was toughened and heat-soak tested, and the horizontal fins are made from the Planar SentryGlas System, which offers increased strength and durability.