LOCATION LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTCase Study The Cable & Wireless College, Coventry MacCormac Jamieson PrichardA creative collaboration Richard Wilcock looks at the important role of Blanc de Bierges in the realisation of the design by architectsThe versatility and scope of the Blanc de Bierges system of handcrafted MacCormac Jamieson Prichard.building and landscaping components - as well as the company’s ability to The training facility for Cable &collaborate with designers - were fully tested in this Cable & Wireless project. Wireless in Coventry has been recognised as one of the finest buildings completed in the UK in recent years: ‘It is one of the best new buildings in Europe,’ according to Jonathan Clancey, architectural correspondent for The Independent. Having won the accolade of the Royal Fine Art Commission/Sunday Times Building of the Year A ward for 1994, the Cable & Wireless College has achieved a string of other awards and commendations. B l a n c d e Bi e r ge s L t d Te l : + 44 (0 ) 1858 410 048 w w w. bla n cdebi erges . co m
Case Study The Cable & Wireless College, Coventry Setting the toneCable & Wireless is one of theworld’s largest telecommunicationsenterprises with associated companiesin 50 countries, including Mercury inthe UK.The brief for the building to architectsMacCormac Jamieson Prichard wasto provide a ‘centre of excellencein training and research’. Thearchitects had extensive experiencein designing educational facilities.Partner David Prichard realised thatthis brief for a complete college was‘quite exceptional’ and that the clientwanted a very special solution. “One of our key early concepts was that all the buildings on the campus should appear to be sitting on a single plinth. To achieve this, we knew we needed one product range to cope with the many different shapes and forms. But we wanted something softer and The prestige nature of the project is more textured than machined reflected in the quality of the design and the materials used. The natural precast concrete. “ creamy-buff colour and handcrafted appearance of Blanc de Bierges is an integral part of the visual appeal of the project. It blends beautifully with other materials, such as the Kirkstone slate, needle-gunned in-situ concrete, copper cladding and the distinctive green-blue glazed roof tiles used on the wave-like, north-light roofs of the two teaching wings.
“Where new moulds had to be created, we adapted them to extract as many variations from the mould type as possible, to produce all the components we required.”But quite apart from its attractiveappearance, the variety of the Blanc There are two of these elegant seats on campus, gracing the ends ofde Bierges range is such that the paths. The unique design is inspired by thearchitects were able to use it in many convex/concave elements often found in the work of Lutyens.different ways. Not only does Blanc They are specially created in Blanc de Bierges material.de Bierges define the main circulationroutes for the campus, it is also usedto express one of the fundamentaldesign concepts of the project. StephenCherry, Architect and Associate incharge explains:“We were aware of the Blanc deBierges range, and visited theirfactory to see the manufacturingprocess and discuss our requirements.Following that visit we producedover one hundred 3-D sketchesof the forms we were developing.These sketches became the basis of aclose collaboration with the team atBlanc de Bierges, and we spent manyhours together devising ways to useand manipulate standard mouldsand minimise the need for specials.We learned a good deal about theirmanufacturing process, and thisenabled us to tweak dimensions,rationalise step heights and so on, toreduce the need for expensive newmoulds.” B l a n c d e Bi e r ge s L t d Te l : + 44 (0 ) 1858 410 048 w w w. bla n cdebi erges . co m
Case Study The Cable & Wireless College CoventryIn total there were 76,000 elements the edge of the west teaching block,of Blanc de Bierges used in the under the library and through theproject, based on 139 different types central oculus to the reception area.of components. Some 68,000 of these Flights of stairs, constructed withelements came from 11 standard steps cast at an angle to orientate withcomponents, 5000 from 85 specially the paving, lead up to the walkwayscreated components and 3000 around the plinth and down into thefrom 43 modifications of standard lake.components.Sited on the edge of a technology Central facilitiespark close to Warwick University, the Central facilities - such as the refectory,Cable and Wireless College looks out common rooms, library and museumover open countryside. It caters for - are placed around the ocular court.around 300 students, more than half Here, four copper-clad columnsliving on site. The teaching areas are support a high-level canopy with anlaid out in a series of strips across the oval cut-out. The shape is reflected insite running from east to west. The the paving where the Blanc de Biergesmain entrance is to the south where slabs harmonise with an oval inset ofthe wings of the teaching blocks open Kirkstone slate.out and embrace the countrysidebeyond, like a Palladian villa - one of Because of its lively appearance, itsthe inspirations for the design. ability to perform both internally and externally, and its modularity,Blanc de Bierges is first seen at the Blanc de Bierges has been used as aentrance where ‘L’ Modules have been unifying material throughout theused on the haha wall, which reduces scheme on vertical planes as well asthe impact of the main road on the horizontal. Stephen Cherry explains:College’s view of the countryside. The ‘It was essential that the vertical slabspowerful diagonal route, paved with did not appear as cladding. To createBlanc de Bierges 600 x 600 mm slabs the plinth, standard Blanc de Biergesand 140 x 140 x 40 mm setts, leads along ‘L’ Modules have been detailed and
assembled in a manner expressing swimming pool, fitness centre, sportssolid masonry. This can most clearly hall and bar. The pool and plant roombe seen in the ha-ha, steps, and the are buried into the ground, which isangled, exposed corners to the west then reformed around the building.teaching block plinth rising out of the The bar is at first-floor level and itslake’ terrace forms the roof of the pool. The terrace can be reached externally andBlanc de Bierges paving slabs (600 x internally, via Blanc de Bierges steps600 mm and 300 x 600 mm) are used in a variety of shapes, sizes and edgeto define the covered cloister on the profiles.south facade of the residential block.This links the student bed-sittingrooms, grouped around staircases inthe traditional Oxbridge manner, with ‘It was essential that the vertical slabs did not appearthe communal facilities. The College, as cladding. To create the plinth, standard Blanc deas a consequence of its location, isquite self-contained, hence David Bierges ‘L’ Modules have been detailed and assembledPrichard emphasises the importance in a manner expressing solid masonry. This can mostof the refectory as the social hub of clearly be seen in the ha-ha, steps, and the angled,this community. exposed corners to the west teaching block plinth risingAt the east end of the site, where the out of the lake’ground rises to form a small hillock,is the leisure pavilion containing the B l a n c d e Bi e r ge s L t d Te l : + 44 (0 ) 1858 410 048 w w w. bla n cdebi erges . co m
Case Study The Cable & Wireless College CoventryA splash of inspirationBlanc de Bierges paving slabs (600 x terrace can be reached externally and600 mm and 300 x 600 mm) are used internally, via Blanc de Bierges stepsto define the covered cloister on the in a variety of shapes, sizes and edgesouth facade of the residential block. profiles.This links the student bed-sittingrooms, grouped around staircases in A distinctive feature crafted outthe traditional Oxbridge manner, with of Blanc de Bierges components isthe communal facilities. The College, the fountain in the leisure pavilion.as a consequence of its location, is Here, the architects have created thequite self-contained, hence David impression that the fountain is thePrichard emphasises the importance source of water for the swimmingof the refectory as the social hub of pool and that it then flows outsidethis community. the building over a waterfall, before passing along a narrow rill or water-At the east end of the site, where the filled channel framed with Blanc deground rises to form a small hillock, Bierges 400 x 600 x 200 mm steps.is the leisure pavilion containing theswimming pool, fitness centre, sports The other main water feature ishall and bar. The pool and plant room the lake at the main entrance to theare buried into the ground, which is college. Here, Blanc de Bierges ‘L’then reformed around the building. Modules rise out of the water to formThe bar is at first-floor level and its the plinth to the west teaching block.terrace forms the roof of the pool. The
The non-slip finish and low porosityof Blanc de Bierges were particularly The non-slip finish and low porosity of Blanc de Biergesuseful for the wide surrounds to the were particularly useful for the wide surrounds to theexternal water features, the internalswimming pool and for the stairs, external water features, the internal swimming pool andreception area and restaurant areas. for the stairs, reception area and restaurant areas.MacCormac Jamieson Prichard’sattention to detail on Cable & Wirelessis impressive. They producedapproximately 1,600 drawings for theproject.The complexity of the design andthe large number of special featuresand fittings placed great demandson the contractor, subcontractors andsuppliers involved in the constructionof the college.As it has on other special projects- such as Evans and Shalev’s Tategallery at St. Ives - Blanc de Biergesrose to the occasion, It was able to dothis because it has a dedicated team,steeped in a philosophy similar to thatof architects.At the end of the day, 76,000elements from a complex 16-weekmanufacturing schedule wereproduced exactly on time, anddelivered in 52 mixed loads tocoincide with the contractors’ phasedprogramme. To achieve this, staff inthe Blanc de Bierges factory workedthroughout the Christmas/New Yearholiday period.Blanc de Bierges is proud to havebeen have been involved in thischallenging project, which shows howclose collaboration between designersand manufacturers helps to produceoutstanding buildings. B l a n c d e Bi e r ge s L t d Te l : + 44 (0 ) 1858 410 048 w w w. bla n cdebi erges . co m
Case Study The Cable & Wireless College CoventryAlmost 90 per cent of the Blanc de Bierges elementsused in the project were standard items from the range.140 x 140 x 80 mm setts and kerbs in a variety ofprofiles are used to mark the parking bays and the mainpedestrian routes in the car park to the north.
colour, shape & harmony “The waterfall is a fissure in the pavilion’s plinth and special shapes - some of the most complicated on site - were formed to create this feature. These ‘specials’ contain the waterfall and obscure the trough, which together with the noise of the waterfall, creates the illusion that there is a subterranean reservoir.” Stephen Cherry B l a n c d e Bi e r ge s L t d Te l : + 44 (0 ) 1858 410 048 w w w. bla n cdebi erges . co m
Blanc de Bierges components used on the Cable & Wireless Scheme Saddlebaks Steps Retaining Walls Spiral Stairways Bespoke Setts & Slabs Copings Pool Tiles Gullies & Kerbs Architectural Masonry Architectural Cladding Street Furniture TM AmphiSystem Tree Grilles Head Office 69 Northampton Road Market Harborough Leicestershire LE16 9HD United Kingdom Tel: +44 (0)1858 410 048 committed to excellence in cast stonework w w w. b l a n c d e b i e r g e s . c o m