University of Bristol, Life Sciences Building

University of Bristol, Life Sciences Building

Proteus HR, Proteus SC
Sheppard Robson Architects

Proteus Facades anodised aluminium cladding panels have created a sinuous piece of contemporary design at Bristol University in the form of a wrapped and rippled armour-like facade.

The £56.5m Life Sciences Building features a radical, undulating façade executed in Proteus HR solid and SC perforated free-form concave and convex panels with half-circle radii geometry.

The visual impact of Sheppard Robson’s design has been a beacon for the department, and the university reported a 40% rise in admissions in the two years following its completion.

The entire western block of Bristol Life Sciences is sheathed behind a striking combination of Proteus HR and Proteus SC solid and perforated, curved and flat aluminium panels that wrap, ripple and sheer across the facade.

Distinctly different in form, it is this west-facing wing with its gently snaking façade that defines this building. The striking geometry of the Proteus HR and SC façade establishes a new landmark on the Bristol skyline.

Proteus HR and SC are versatile and flexible solutions that provide aesthetic screening to building facades. Proteus SC is a single-skin metal panel system that can be specified as solid, perforated or mesh formats. Proteus HR panels have a honeycomb core to achieve a lightweight, perfectly flat surface, creating a powerful contrast to the curved panels below.

In a radical move by the architects, the large 1.5 m diameter ducts that provide services to the environmentally-controlled laboratories are located outside the building insulation line. These are expressed as bulbous shafts ribbed across the façade and shrouded by Proteus HR solid, curved aluminium panels.

Interwoven between these are three bands of window openings. In order to manage natural light levels inside the laboratories, the windows are set back deep within recesses and semi-obscured by the Proteus SC perforated panels that appear as bulbous, puffed-out, skeletonised versions of the curved HR panels around the service ducts.

The solar shade provided by the perforated panels reduce cooling loads within the teaching half of the building by enabling the use of exposed slabs with active chilled beams. This minimised floor to ceiling heights and that in turn enabled an entire floor height to be saved, which helped in planning and conservation terms.

Repositioning the service ducts to the outside of the also building had practical benefits because it enabled reconfiguration of the internal modular laboratory spaces in order to adapt to future requirements.

The overall appearance of the west-wing is staggering, with a beguiling industrial and machine-like appearance that is a perfect representation of the complex scientific activities that take place within.

Sitting above this sinuous, façade is a counter-balanced pod that features Proteus HR solid cladding panels in a tall, elongated arrangement. The optically flat, sheer face of the Proteus HR panels transition from the wrapped and rippled facade below with the help of swept curves around the edges of the overhanging pod.

A spokesperson from Sheppard Robson architects said: “Our goal on this project was to create a building that respects the neighbouring listed buildings and surrounding conservation area whilst also adding a confident piece of contemporary design to Bristol. The cladding panels have created a sinuous organic aesthetic that reflects the nature of the activities inside.”

The Life Sciences Building now has one of the largest learning labs in the country, capable of teaching 200 students at once. There are multiple screens to ensure all students can see close-up what the lecturer is doing and moveable walls can change the size of the space.

Bristol Life Sciences Building was shortlisted in the RIBA Awards and Education Estates Awards. It was designed by the architects Sheppard Robson and built by VINCI Construction UK.