Learning & Teaching Centre – Brunel University London
Our new Learning & Teaching Centre (LTC) provides a variety of spaces for the student-centred pedagogies that are evolving at Brunel University London. Set alongside the central campus Quad, newly landscaped as part of the scheme, the building is perpendicular to the Grade II Listed Brutalist Central Lecture Block (CLB). The light, transparent façade of the LTC has been designed to be a counterpoint to the heavy, solid architecture of its concrete neighbour.
The façade of the new LTC features specially designed glazed ceramic tiles. Penoyre & Prasad collaborated with ceramic artist Lydia Johnson of Fettle Studio and industry leading tile manufacturer NBK Terracotta to develop the different textures and glazes for the facade. The design process sought to create a crafted, rather than factory-perfect, end product, and moved back and forth from the architectural model shop to the artist’s studio in East London to the factory in Dusseldorf.
Inspiration for the design of the ceramic tiles was taken from the surface qualities, contrasting textures and sculptural geometry found on the neighbouring CLB.
Ground and first floors will be clad in flush, textured tiles with a miniature scale sawtooth profile. Various textures and profiles were tested by Fettle Studio using CNC mould making and slip casting. The texture provides interest at a human scale, with satisfyingly spaced ribs for running fingers between.
Above this, the tiles on the upper storeys are finely combed and set in a larger scale 3-dimensional sawtooth profile. As well as breathing life into the façade, the sculpted profiling of these upper levels provides solar shading for the internal spaces.
Glazes have been developed in collaboration with Fettle Studio and NBK Terracotta to bring a sense of natural variation across the façade. Following initial ‘speckled’ colour proposals, the glaze has progressed to creating full tiles in subtle hues of pink, blue-green and white, to create a soft, mottled, almost iridescent effect to the facade, whilst being practical and affordable for factory production.
The combination of these textures and finishes provides a light, reflective, pearlescent façade with deep shadows in the folds, gradually revealing texture, colour and variation the closer it is experienced.
The modular nature of the ceramic façade takes advantage of off-site construction and prefabrication. The final solution successfully makes the transition from artist’s studio to factory production line and will minimise on-site disruption, waste and overall construction programme.