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Roofing & Cladding

University of York campus expansion, Heslington East


A stunning combination of VMZINC QUARTZ-ZINC® and PIGMENTO® vertical interlocking façade panels have been specified by architects BDP in their design of the £80 million University of York campus expansion at Heslington East.

BDP was invited to masterplan and design the individual buildings, the cladding inspiration for which was explained by Project Architect Andrew Lees. “Our vision for the design was prompted by the rural surroundings and specifically by the lakeside location. We felt that the elevations should reflect colours which stemmed from flora such as bulrushes. Though we were not initially familiar with the Pigmento colour range we subsequently realised that their subtle shades of grey, green and red would enable us to create a colour palette which was visually analogous to the rhythm of multi-stemmed plants”.

Initially the cladding specified was coloured fibrous cement panels. During the detailed design stage, however, the VMZINC system proved to be a more economical solution with the added benefit that installation could take place during winter months. 3-metre long panels in 375mm and 400mm widths were used to suit the structural modules with a continuous 20mm ventilated air gap behind the boarding of the entire façade.

The architects are particularly pleased with the way in which the zinc responds to changing light conditions and viewing angles of the multi-facetted facades. Andrew Lees added, “A particularly satisfying feature of the zinc is the crisp shadow gap that is achieved between adjacent panels. This gives the skin of the building a textured sophistication and the ability to form a continuous ‘wrap’ around both the straight and curved sections of the façade”.

Housed in two wings overlooking the existing lake and embracing a courtyard garden The first phase has undergraduate and postgraduate software laboratories and two more in which the Human-Computer Interaction research group undertakes much of its work. A fully glazed atrium connects the wings at all levels while a glass link leads to the seminar and common room pod which nestles in the centre of the courtyard as a garden pavilion. This organic timber structure acts as a counterpoint to the zinc clad wings that surround it.

The last words go to fellow Project Architect Tony Robinson who said, “The VM Zinc product was the making of Computer Science and Law and Management Buildings” Elizabeth Heaps, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University added, “The buildings are absolutely stunning. They are so striking and aesthetically they are just brilliant”.