As if cast from a single mould
The Darwin Hall community centre lies between the Darwin Park Estate and Chester Road area of Lichfield, at the end of a long, landscaped avenue with open views onto Lichfield Cathedral. Given the high profile location of the new building on Cathedral Walk, it was essential the design reflected the character of the surrounding built environment, was sympathetic to the natural landscape and respected the site’s open views, while also serving as a local landmark and a focal point for the community.
Appointed by Lichfield City Council, architects Bryant Priest Newman were very conscious the building should be welcoming, easily accessible and sustainable, as well as having a strong aesthetic appeal. The contemporary low-rise building they developed is eye-catching both for its architectural simplicity and the exceptional variety of tone and texture of the Hectic range facing brick used on all four elevations, with Hectic brick slip cladding used to maintain the illusion in the punched out oriel windows.
Struck by the authentic ‘hand-crafted’ appearance and beauty of the Hectic brick, the architects initially wanted to use it to create the external landscaped areas, forming an unbroken connection between the building and its surroundings. However the similar colouring of the Aquata Telford paver, combined with its durability credentials and the advantages of being part of a sustainable urban drainage system, offered the designers the ideal solution.
The new shaped paver, redesigned with the interlocking nibs recessed from the surface to give a more traditional aesthetic, provides the wearing course over the system’s permeable bedding aggregate, through which surface-run off can drain into the natural rainwater systems. The system enables the building to maintain its independence, as a self sufficient structure without links to the mains sewer system for drainage, and acts as an exemplar project in terms of its sustainability.
Project architect Gavin Orton said: “Looking at the external landscaping from a purely aesthetic point of view, we were keen to maintain continuity between the building and its immediate surroundings, and planned to use the Hectic brick until we realised the Aquata Telford paver could achieve a similar look and help achieve our sustainability aims.” The finished scheme is warm, dynamic, striking and accessible. “Close up, each brick becomes an individual piece of tactile craftwork where passers-by touch, feel and stroke their way along the elevations. The muted purples and reds of the Aquata Telford paver is an ideal partner to the Hectic brick and helps create the illusion of the building rising from the landscape.
The community centre itself is already proving popular with residents and provides an interesting and sympathetic addition to the landscape. It reflects the character and charm of Lichfield as a historic city, while celebrating the 21st century and the diversity of both the people using it and the breadth of activities centred there.”
- Community centre, Lichfield
- Bryant Priest Newman Architects
- Lichfield City Council
- Pavers used:
- Aquata™ Telford (permeable clay paver)
- Andrew Smith, SG Photography