Architect turns to gold for eye-catching design

Architect Salim Hussain explains how he turned to gold to ensure an eye-catching design.

I faced a number of challenges when designing the new campus building for Bournville College in Longbridge, Birmingham, UK. One of these was how to make the corner of the site an eye catching statement. This corner was on a major thoroughfare and as such would be seen by all.

To anchor the building the conference centre was located hard on the curving boundary. It was a single storey element that contrasted with the spine building towering over it (which had a raking glass facade and 13m cantilevering roof) so it needed to be a strong design statement to make its presence felt.

The form of the conference centre was amorphous with the curving facade and sloping roof being conceptualised as one element. I therefore needed a material that was flexible and could be laid flat as well as on vertical faces.

Render would not work on the slope and timber was not visually ‘punchy’ enough. Then it struck me – gold. It needed to be gold. This was a material that would be malleable enough to be used on the facade, the roof and to from the curves.

Unfortunately, the client could not stretch its budget to envelop the conference centre in gold, so we settled on a sheet copper alloy that gave the illusion of gold.

The choice was correct with the conference centre becoming the perfect counterbalance to the sloping glass and structural gymnastics of the roof and marking the college’s presence in the heart of the city.

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