Case Study: St Albans Place by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

4/6/20

St Albans Place is part of the 'New Briggate Vision' regeneration scheme in Leeds, which has seen a long history of unsuccessful planning proposals.

The site occupies a dominant position visible from a number of historic locations, with wide views from the motorway approach. Great care was given to the appropriateness of scale, particularly with regard to the fact that the proposals would establish the now-emerging tower skyline at the fringe of the city centre's Grand Quarter conservation area.

Using industrial craft traditions of Leeds - tile manufacture, fine terracotta and decorative faience, and textiles for inspiration, the exterior design of St Albans Place has pursued a narrative of a woven façade to produce a simple subscale pattern able to articulate large flat surfaces of the façade.

The 'warp' and 'weft' of vertical and horizontal strands are interlayered like a fabric, with bespoke glazed ceramic extrusions producing contrasting strands of varying texture and reflectance from a single palette of colour. This creates a façade which is intricate and alluring when seen close-up, yet legible from afar.

The overall built form is articulated as three parts: two lower 'shoulders' and a central tower, whose variations of pattern and colour contrast subtly. The refinement of colour specifically uses the pooling nature of ceramic glaze to intensify tones within the extruded curves of the bespoke ceramic panels.

Through technical development with manufacturer NBK Architectural Terracotta, a common tonal range was established across two glazes, creating a family of elements which react to changes in daylight and season.

The building sits within what was formerly an unloved park. This is now a safe and managed public green space with improved public realm among retained mature trees and has been transformative for the area. The building shelters the park both from the weather and from the sight and sound of the motorway, making it a pleasant green space for residents and other locals.

The approach to the building takes residents through the park, encouraging a little mindful time in nature and creating spaces for chance meetings and building friendships.

For its student residents, St Albans Place was designed to balance the calm privacy of simple but well-planned studio apartments with homely and lively communal areas for individual or collaborative study.

The ground floor and its mezzanine are places to meet and relax and offer a venue for planned and informal events, intended to encourage the student community to gather.

Source: Architects Journal

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