Crowning glory

A new Newcastle University building, inspired by the shape of a crown, uses Pilkington UK glass to create a striking monolithic structure in the heart of the city’s sustainable Helix development.

The five-storey Catalyst building makes use of floor-to-ceiling, grey-tinted glazing, layered with an eye-catching golden diagrid to create a futuristic new fixture on the Newcastle skyline.

The 100,000ft2 building houses three centres of national expertise in the fields of data, ageing and innovation, alongside public areas and co-working spaces where businesses can collaborate with academia.

The Bowmer + Kirkland purpose-built facility presented a particular challenge because its compact footprint had to incorporate a pedestrian thoroughfare and enable vehicle access.

To maximise the interior space, the design by architects GSS Architecture incorporates a facade that inclines outwards from the ground floor.

The building’s exterior is clad completely with Pilkington Insulight Sun insulating glass units comprising a 13.5mm laminated and heat-strengthened outer pane with Pilkington Optifloat Grey HN, a Clear PVB interlayer and Pilkington Suncool 70/35 HN, with an inner pane made from 10mm toughened and heat-soaked Pilkington Optifloat Clear THS.

Because the glass has a combination of both a tinted, and a high-performance coated glass within the makeup, it has a low g-value, helping to keep out much of the heat from the sun. With a low light transmittance, it’s the ideal product to help reduce solar gain in the building, minimising the need for energy-intensive air conditioning during the summer months, the company said.

In addition, Pilkington Spandrel Glass IGU was specified and incorporated Pilkington Optifloat Grey THS and Pilkington Enamelled Glass within insulating glass units, which are opaque, in order to disguise the internal workings of the building between the floors.

Together, the effect is to create an almost seamless monochrome glazed exterior, which enables the building’s contrasting gold grid to shine.

The Catalyst also incorporates a 9m-high exposed undercroft, where a section of the building has been cut out to create a pedestrian thoroughfare.

The area incorporates the entrance to the building, which leads on to an exhibition space, so clarity of light is paramount in this area.

The atrium space that opens onto the undercroft also features a large digital video display, which the architects wanted to be un-obscured by framing or fixings of the glazing system.

To make this possible, Charles Henshaw and Sons, Edinburgh-based facade specialist, specified Pilkington Suncool 70/35 OW for optimum transparency.

Pilkington Suncool 70/35 OW made of Pilkington Optiwhite, a true low-iron glass, ensures that the glazing is close to colourless, giving visitors a clear view into the open plan exhibition space inside, inviting them in.

Juran Kerr of GSS Architecture Newcastle said: “We put together a performance specification based on what we needed, including colour, g-value and light transmission.

“Charles Henshaw went out to the marketplace and selected Pilkington UK as they were able to offer the products that delivered the architect’s vision and specification.

“The combination of different types of glazing works really well.

“When you look at the facade it’s hard to distinguish between the vision glass and the spandrel units, which is exactly the look that we wanted to achieve, and the glazing doesn’t detract from the gold diagrid around the perimeter; it enhances it.

“The building was designed to have a monolithic appearance and it does just that.”