South Thames College, London

PROJECT:
SOUTH THAMES COLLEGE, LONDON

 

PRODUCT:
GLAZED TERRACOTTA BLOCK

 

CLIENT:
CHARTER PARTNERSHIP (NOW ARCHIAL)

 

The South Thames College campus initially appeared to be a straightforward project, with the architects identifying a very specific tile type for the facade. However, Modular Clay Products soon established that the innovative design concept would need to be underpinned by an equally innovative, bespoke solution to turn the architect’s original vision into reality.

At an early stage of the project, our industry expertise helped us to quickly identify some hidden complexities. Based on the original design, the façade would extend right down to street level. In our experience, this would leave the tiles vulnerable to damage at street level, compromising their durability. Instead, we proposed a solution that would work both from a practical and aesthetic point of view: a 215 x 215 x 100mm blue-glazed terracotta block.

Tim West, Managing Director, Modular Clay Products

Background
Based in the South London borough of Wandsworth, South Thames College provides educational and training courses for adults, school leavers, international students and employers. The campus was designed by Ipswich-based architect Archial (then Charter Partnership) to accommodate 5,000 students and 200 staff. The overall project included new facilities for a wide range of academic disciplines, plus a Sixth Form Centre, sports hall and café.

 

Challenge
In 2008, the architect asked Modular Clay Products to help it track down a very specific tile: a 215 x 215mm blue glazed terracotta. However, the project was more complicated than it initially appeared, says Tim West, Managing Director of Modular Clay Products.

“At an early stage of the project, our industry expertise helped us to quickly identify some hidden complexities. Based on the original design, the façade would extend right down to street level. In our experience, this would leave the tiles vulnerable to damage at street level, compromising their durability. Instead, we proposed a solution that would work both from a practical and aesthetic point of view: a 215 x 215 x 100mm blue-glazed terracotta block.”

The next stage was to split the production process into separate, manageable components, based on the architect’s single-line plans and elevations. However, the innovative design of the building itself posed another challenge, with a wall that projected out from the main building. Modular Clay Products immediately realised that a traditional building approach was not a realistic option, explains Evan Salmon, Sales Manager at Modular Clay Products.

 

Solution
“We decided to tackle the problem with an innovative precast solution, where the backs of the blocks were cut out to form a dovetail. Individual precast sections were made in a mould, then transported to the site and craned into position and attached to the building section by section.”

The team took a hands-on approach to project-managing the entire process, scheduling regular factory visits to check that timings and strict quality specifications were being fulfilled. Modular Clay Products also worked very closely with the site team to ensure that the blocks were clearly labelled and palletised so that they could be used in the right sequence and taken straight to the correct parts of the building. In addition, the team worked alongside the bricklayer, sub contractor and main contractor to underpin the success of the overall project.

 

Benefits
The team focused on helping the client to pinpoint ways to simplify and value-engineer the design to streamline costs. However, in this project, which was completed in 2009, the firm’s key role was to use its deep understanding of the architect’s vision to help translate an initial concept into a building that would work in practice as well as in theory.

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