How can a rainscreen facade transform an older building?
11th September 2017
The vast majority of buildings in the UK were built before modern thermal performance standards came in to being. Many, too, are beginning to look dated, especially concrete and masonry-based structures that can look tired against sleek, contemporary buildings that now dominate our city centres. In simple terms, many of these older buildings have passed their ‘sell by’ date and are in need of a makeover in order to make them attractive to investors and occupiers.
Chester Storyhouse is an excellent example of how an older building can be brought right up to date, in terms of aesthetics and performance, with rainscreen cladding system. The original 1930’s Odeon in Chester, a Grade II Listed building, had fallen into disrepair and disuse, and the owners were therefore looking for a solution to bring it up to date. The completed refurbishment now showcases the ways in which advances in rainscreen façade materials, such as our Proteus HR system, can help designers reimagine and repurpose much-loved buildings, making them appeal to a new generation of users.
Linking with the past
Storyhouse in Chester is brand new £37m theatre, library, cinema and arts centre that was transformed using our TECU copper rainscreen cladding system. The original listed 1930s Odeon cinema building now houses an 800-seat auditorium, a 150-seat studio theatre, a restaurant, two bars and a 100-seat boutique cinema. Clad entirely in TECU copper material, the studio theatre, which sits on top of the main Storyhouse auditorium, creates a striking, pavilion-like silhouette on the Chester skyline. Set against the glass fins below, it creates a striking, modern aesthetic that sits comfortably with the original brick façade.
Chester Storyhouse is the largest public building in Chester, and is positioned between the Victorian grade II listed town hall and the medieval grade I-listed cathedral, highlighting what an important role this building plays in the city’s historical development. Located in such a sensitive location created additional challenges for the architects on this project, and was one of the reasons why they specified TECU copper, because it weather over time to create a beautiful patina.
Bennetts Associates, the project architects, specified Proteus HR TECU copper material for the studio theatre. This was chosen as a nod to the original 1930s art deco cinema, and because of the material’s ability to transition to an oxidised green that will echo the appearance of the original Odeon roof.
The designers also took into account the fact that copper has been used in architecture for centuries. As a material, it can also be used to form complex shapes, which was helped by our cladding panels having a honeycomb core. This makes them lightweight yet extremely rigid, and therefore a logical choice for the projecting studio theatre, which is now the most visually prominent element of the revitalised building. This striking design cuts across the green-tinged, cast-glass panels and brickwork, breaking up and compartmentalising the new, old and refurbished elements.
Chester Storyhouse has been designed to the highest standards for audience comfort and sightlines. The same rigour has been applied to the rainscreen cladding, both visually and technically. The copper panels are fitted to rigid vertical mullions that are anchored to the backing wall with adjustable support brackets. The façade panels have a honeycomb core, which provides them with strength, rigidity and a lightweight nature, all of which contributed to minimising the carbon footprint of the redevelopment.
The architects felt that the main success of the Storyhouse design lay in the way the extension containing the theatre spaces was added to the shell of the original Odeon building. Whilst the proportions of the extension relate directly to the historic brick cinema, the use of copper and glass to create elevations provided contrast by which to identify the main elements of the new building. The addition of the ribbed, abstracted rainscreen clad ‘fins’ that envelop the studio theatre added a whole other dimension; the flatness of the honeycomb facade panels and the long-term beauty of the natural copper finish were key to the decision to use this material.
Aside from creating a visually striking design from the outside, the copper enveloped studio theatre looks set to become the hardest working space in the building. Retractable seating has been incorporated to allow for a flat floor for workshops and rehearsals, while as a performance space, its intimacy allows for a close relationship between actor and audience, allowing the next chapter in Chester’s story to be told.
As designers look to bring older building up to date, more are choosing a rainscreen façade. Principally, this is because of the wide range of materials and finishes we offer gives them more options when looking to improve a building’s appeal, whilst retaining a link with the past. The use of our copper material at Chester Storyhouse is a great example of how this approach is able to add to the diversity of our cityscapes, creating a building that is able to stand up to the medieval cathedral on one side and the Listed town hall on the other. When it comes to making an older building look and perform like new, our TECU range of copper and copper-alloy materials, or any of our other metal cladding panels such as Corten, patinated brass, gold-effect, bronze, zinc or stainless steel, take some beating.