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Historic Newcastle University unveils refurbishment

by PHOEBE LIU on Aug 20, 2012 in Architecture , Interiors
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If there’s one place that suffers from rapid wear-and-tear from high traffic and useage, it has to be educational establishments – but wise material choices can make all the difference

With large numbers of students making use of the facilities at their colleges, universities and schools (and students not known for being particularly careful when using anything that doesn’t personally belong to them), materials can degrade and require replacement frequently.

It makes sense, therefore, to opt for highly durable and extremely versatile solid surface material where applicable – the pay-off is obvious as this will simply last longer, and continue to look good despite being manhandled by thousands of highly active youths over its lifespan. At the 180-year-old Newcastle University campus in the UK, the five-storey students union – located in a listed building – was in need of refurbishment, and FaulknerBrowns Architects was put on the case.

The architectural practice worked on the specification and design with Newcastle University project chief and executive of the students union Simon Gerry. His brief was for a material that would be highly durable and stand up to heavy use over a number of years. He was also looking for a material that would not wear, look tired or deteriorate in terms of appearance or performance.

Both wood and decorative laminates were rejected, and FaulknerBrowns then proposed using LG Hausys’ Hi-Macs composite, based on its own experience with the product. “Hi-Macs is a windfall for designers. Detailing edges or limiting designs to single plane surfaces is no longer a problem,” explains Alistair Stripp, project director for FaulknerBrowns. “Traditionally there had to be acceptance of something less than the concept due to practicalities which, in truth, were just limitations of the materials. We can now push the designs as far as the design software will allow us.”

Read the full story, ‘Student-resistant’, in the September 2012 issue of Perspective magazine! 

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