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Tour of the Nottingham University Advanced Manufacturing Building

Last month, we visited the University of Nottingham’s Jubilee Campus for a tour of the new Advanced Manufacturing Building, designed by Bond Bryan Architects and completed in 2018. It is primarily clad in gold anodised aluminium panelling with a dark brickwork base and understated but precise black panelling to the secondary elevations which enclose the main workshops.

Tour of the Nottingham University Advanced Manufacturing Building - Image 1
First Impressions

Upon arrival, walking from the main university campus, the Advanced Manufacturing Building is a new landmark within the City that invites pedestrians into the campus. The dramatic angle, where the building terminates and overlooks a precisely landscaped feature fountain, is one of the key viewpoints that the Advanced Manufacturing Building has been designed to showcase.

The location of the main entrance in relation to the meandering form of the building is neatly positioned and sweeps you into the main atrium.

The full height entrance atrium showcases the various programmes of the building; research laboratories and workshops on the ground floor with teaching spaces, with offices and meeting spaces above. The internal glass partitions make the layout of the building immediately legible to its visitors in addition to making the atrium a focal point within the building.

Tour of the Nottingham University Advanced Manufacturing Building - Image 2

In the atrium we met Joel Segal, the Head of Advanced Manufacturing Technology Research Group, who was our enthusiastic guide for the afternoon. He was able to provide in depth insight into the specific manufacturing types and research areas in addition to the scale of improvement that the new building provides when compared with their previous facilities, which were scattered across the University of Nottingham Campus. We were also fortunate enough to be accompanied by Tim Hubner from GF Tomlinson, the contractor who built the building, who provided additional insight into the design features and construction challenges.

Joel explained that each department head was allocated a space and consulted very early on in the design process. Not only did this result in spaces which were far more useable for the occupants but also enabled the researchers to assimilate to their spaces much faster as they had been familiarised with the proposals.

Tour of the Nottingham University Advanced Manufacturing Building - Image 4
Design highlights

The building’s response to the constraints of the site, in particular how it navigates the River Leen, is very interesting from both an architectural and urban planning perspective. The building mimics the fluidity of the river topography and adapts it to the required brief. In addition to this, the effect of sunlight refracting off the building’s anodised cladding material is reminiscent of sunlight bouncing off running water.

The main internal stair within the atrium is pivotal to the atmosphere of the space. At ground floor level it is oriented to draw people towards it from the main entrance and has an impressive cantilever between the first and second floor levels. What I really like about this staircase is how unassuming it is; the facing material appears to be black painted MDF and has fairly standard carpeted risers with aluminium tread covers. This simplicity in material finish is in contrast to the intricacy of its detailing; the asymmetric form, suspended upper landing and recessed handrails with inset feature lighting.

Tour of the Nottingham University Advanced Manufacturing Building - Image 5
Closing thoughts

Overall, the visit was a useful and interesting study. We were able to visualise how atypical shaped spaces, created by the building’s exterior form, could be arranged to generate spaces that compliment the rest of the interior. It was also an excellent example of a building which has been tailored to its proposed use within challenging site constraints. Finally, it perfectly displayed how a relatively simple element, such as a staircase, can substantially improve the atmosphere of a larger space through detailed architectural interventions. These are all aspects we can draw inspiration from which apply directly to our day to day project work and can improve the buildings that we design.

This month’s blog was written by Architectural Assistant David Gladstone.