Public sector design - the finishing touches that make the difference


In public sector buildings, finishing touches of lighting, flooring and art are essential for the space to function


Perse School has an even longer history than Newnham College, also in Cambridge (see next section) dating back to 1615. The independent day school moved to its present site in 1960, but after increasing its intake of pupils it had outgrown its previous facilities.

Architect Haworth Tompkins designed the £9.6m Peter Hall Performing Arts Centre, named after the former director of the National Theatre, and a former pupil. The extension included a 400-seat auditorium, an adaptable foyer space, dressing rooms and classrooms, all with sustainability at the heart. The warm timber flooring chosen for much of the project was an engineered oak from Hakwood’s Sierra Collection, with a sawn texture and oiled finish.

Durability and ease of maintenance are important in any school, but at Perse the specific challenge was that the building is part of the school by day and a regular theatre at night. The materials had to be able to take the wear and tear of the pupils, provide the right atmosphere for a formal night out, and age gracefully. ‘Hakwood’s flooring has a beautiful surface that works very well with the [materials] palette,’ says lead architect Jessica Daly. ‘Moreover, when it marks and ages, it looks even better rather than damaged.’ The two colours that were chosen work well with the textures of the hand-made bricks, pre-cast concrete and timber used in the building, as well as providing a contrast between the auditorium with its dark oak flooring and the lighter feel of the front of house spaces.

Bespoke artwork was also commissioned from Glasgow based artist Victoria Morton, who worked with a group of pupils to explore the school archives for inspiration. The resulting textile wall hanging provides a colourful counterpoint to the industrial concrete of the walls.

 

Newnham College in Cambridge was established in 1871 as a boarding house where young women could live while attending lectures at the university. The original Queen Anne-style building, designed by Basil Champneys and now known as Old Hall, remains in use, but a few months ago the facilities at the women’s college were boosted considerably by a modern extension by Walters & Cohen Architects.


Newnham College. Architect: Walters & Cohen; Interior design: Ab Rogers Design; Lighting design: Nulty; Lighting installation: Haberdashery. Credit: James French

The new Dorothy Garrod building (named after the first woman to hold an Oxbridge chair) created a new entrance, a welcoming Porters’ Lodge and a central cafe, along with offices, student bedrooms and a gym above. Anna Sandgren, associate lighting designer at Nulty, worked closely with both the architect and Ab Rogers Design, which created the interiors, to ensure the lighting would be perfect. ‘It’s a mature design with very fine finishes and very big on detailing,’ says Sandgren. ‘We wanted to make sure that the lighting made it welcoming and warm.’


Newnham College. Architect: Walters & Cohen; Interior design: Ab Rogers Design; Lighting design: Nulty; Lighting installation: Haberdashery. Credit: James French

The highlight of the design has to be the amazing light sculpture that floats in an arc over the cafe, as if a graduating student has flung their notes in the air in delight. The result of brainstorming between Nulty, Walters & Cohen and Ab Rogers, brought to life by London-based design studio Haberdashery, the installation was inspired by the fascinating written and photographic history of Newnham College itself and the prints of Japanese artist Hokusai.

Students leaving their rooms and looking down on the light sculpture from above can see historic images and words on the floating sheets. ‘The college has an archive of lots of poems and texts from former students, which have been engraved on to pieces of metal and lit,’ explains Sandgren. ‘We wanted something that the students would connect with, and it adds fun and playfulness into this really beautiful building and helps the students feel at home.’

The all-LED lighting varies throughout the building, with another highlight being the main corridor where bespoke feature lights with two brass discs apiece provide both ambient and down lighting. ‘It creates a rhythm and circular form, adding warmth and working with the timber,’ Sandgren says. ‘The students spend most of their time in this building so we wanted to make sure that it was a really creative space and that the lighting changed throughout the day.’

The transformative power of artwork put the finishing touches on the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Edinburgh Lothian Health Foundation’s new mental health facility created by lead design and architecture practice Norr working with HUB South East. Following the completion of the unit, which has long-stay patients, emergency admissions and day cases, it was decided that the clinical environment could be softened with the introduction of a colourful ceramic art installation.


Royal Edinburgh Hospital: Lead architect: Norr; Art: Frances Priest, Ceramic Art; Tile manufacture: Craven Dunnill Jackfield; Installation: Peter Navratil, Recrafts; Project manager: Becky Brazil, GreenSpace l ArtSpace. Credit: Shannon Tofts

Artist Frances Priest worked with tile manufacturer Craven Dunnill Jackfield to create a decorative tiled corridor, inspired by two Victorian tiled stairwells in Craig House, the former site of the hospital. The installation stretches 14m along a light-infused entrance way, with the glaze palette of the tiles changing from ochre-yellow to teal, with dramatic accents of deep blue and pink, providing a sense of movement. The pattern has no repeats and few straight edges, giving the feeling that there is always something new to discover within the design, which contains some 2,800 individual tiles.


Royal Edinburgh Hospital: Lead architect: Norr; Art: Frances Priest, Ceramic Art; Tile manufacture: Craven Dunnill Jackfield; Installation: Peter Navratil, Recrafts; Project manager: Becky Brazil, GreenSpace l ArtSpace. Credit: Shannon Tofts

During the two weeks it took to install her artwork, Priest received comments from those passing along the corridor, including how the tiles sparkle in the sunlight and how the colour-drenched space creates a sense of warmth and of somewhere hot, like Morocco or India. She was also surprised and touched by the members of staff who told her they loved the sense of opulence in their working environment, created by the glazes and colours, and that this contributed to making them feel valued in their jobs.





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