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Stainless Steel

Foiled

By Lisa Rummler

August 2009 - There might be debate as to whether a tree makes a sound if it falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it. But there's no doubt as to the existence of trees reflected in new studio and workshop spaces at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, part of Aberystwyth Universityin Wales.

The eight buildings were designed and built by Heatherwick Studio, London. They have wooden frames and are covered in a custom-made, crinkled stainless steel system, which reflects nearby trees.

"Our project was about designing buildings that would provide functional, light-filled spaces for local artists and creative businesses but that would be special and particular to this site and the [center]," said Thomas Heatherwick, founder of Heatherwick Studio, in a press release. "We have been acting like architectural tailors--building simple forms with an extraordinary skin. The skin will reflect the surroundings, and as the young trees and grass begin to mature, the units will feel further embedded into their environment and Aberystwyth."

Material matters
Heatherwick Studio worked on-site with local subcontractors to design and build the studios, and it also developed a special cladding system for the buildings.

This system was also fabricated on-site with a tool that distorted the steel into its unique shapes. Although the material presented some challenges, the team ultimately achieved its goal.

"The studio sourced steel with the thickness of a Coke can, [which] crinkles easily, providing neither structural rigidity nor insulation," according to a press release. "These problems are overcome by crinkling it in a controlled manner before spraying a CFC-free insulation foam on the back of the crinkled surface. The paneling is affordable, rigid and well-insulated."

In addition to these features, the studios' wooden frames are split in the middle and pulled apart. This helps ventilate and naturally light the buildings, and it provides shared entrance areas.

Creative forces
Designing and constructing the unique studios in Aberystwyth has helped bolster Heatherwick Studio's reputation for innovation--the London-based department store Harvey Nichols commissioned the studio to design a window installationfor Fashion Week 1997.

The buildings have also been a boon to the Aberystwyth Arts Centre, underscoring its dedication to and support of art in Wales.

"We are delighted with the studios and Heatherwick's design," said Alan Hewson, director of Aberystwyth Arts Centre, in a press release. "The concept really has captured the imagination of arts organizations and artists in the area--we have formed a creative community here [that] will work closely with, and will add to the strength of, the growing creative cluster in Aberystwyth." FFJ

Sources

  • Heatherwick Studio
    London
    phone: +44 (0)20 7833 8800
    fax: +44 (0)20 7833 8400
    www.heatherwick.com
    e-mail: studio@heatherwick.com

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