Architects Sheppard Robson has had plans approved for a new £29m conference and learning centre and external landscaping at the Newcastle Science Central development.
The first images released of the project reveal the building’s sweeping curve that has been designed to visually connect two public spaces that are adjacent to the project and sit within the Science Central masterplan. This curve is formed of a ‘Learning Arc’ that is positioned around the triangular form of a flexible auditorium with the capacity to hold 750 people.
On the ground floor plan, an internal street mediates between the more formal, focused spaces of the auditorium and the social, interactive spaces in the “Learning Arc”. The latter includes an exhibition space and café for more informal working, addressing the University’s mission to provide a range of collaborative learning and social spaces. Directly above this are three storeys of learning facilities, including office accommodation for the University’s Business School.
The exterior of the ‘Learning Arc’ has a strong vertical expression formed of alternating perforated panels – which allows for natural ventilation – and more solid elements of back-painted glass. This forms a rhythm to the façade which follows the structure of the building’s concrete frame. The top level is lighter in form and is expressed in expanded aluminum mesh.
The auditorium uses a cladding system inspired by the Newcastle-born mathematician Louis Fry Richardson whose pioneering work defined modern methods of weather forecasting. Fry Richardson’s work, which subdivided the planet into hexagonal zones, has been expressed in expanded aluminum mesh on the external elevations of the auditorium. A pattern has been created by the changing the orientation of the mesh, varying the opacity of the material.
The scheme includes the creation of a significant area of new public realm, which will connect Science Square with a softer landscaped Knowledge Square. Terracing will step down from this pocket park, with the landscaping scheme continuing to wrap around the building along Draymans Way. Integral to the landscape design is a discrete sustainable urban drainage system (SUDS), which slows down and holds back rainwater run-off from the site.
Rupert Goddard, partner at Sheppard Robson, said: “The weaving together of social spaces with flexible auditoria will open-up a diverse range of possibilities for modern ways of learning and teaching.
”We wanted our design to communicate the pivotal role this facility will have to the campus and wider University, with a strident design that resonates both with the campus context and the city’s history of scientific innovation.”