Twelve Architects applies diamond-patterned facade to Sheffield university building

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Referencing the stone tracery of an adjacent church, the aluminium lattice covering the facades of this university building in Sheffield, England, incorporates windows of varying sizes (+ slideshow).

The University of Sheffield by Twelve Architects

The Diamond building was designed by London firm Twelve Architects to accommodate new facilities for academics and students at The University of Sheffield's Faculty of Engineering.

The University of Sheffield by Twelve Architects

The 19,500-square-metre facility provides amenities for Engineering undergraduates including specialist laboratories, lecture theatres, teaching spaces, workshops, a learning resource centre and study areas for up to 5,000 students.

The University of Sheffield by Twelve Architects

The building takes its name from the distinctive facade, which comprises a cellular pattern of interconnected diamond shapes. The panelling is formed from anodised aluminium sections fitted together in front of glass cladding.

In places where windows are required, the pattern expands. The intricate design was influenced by nearby historic buildings, and particularly the stone tracery around the windows of the neighbouring church.

The University of Sheffield by Twelve Architects

The pattern also creates a link to the building's use by referencing the appearance of a cellular automaton – a model studied by engineers that can be used to describe how the microstructure of steel changes as it is processed.



"The external appearance creates a distinctive presence and brand for the building," Twelve Architects director Matt Cartwright told Dezeen. "The windows have been carefully positioned to provide good quality daylight into the laboratories and library spaces, whilst also framing key external views."

The University of Sheffield by Twelve Architects

In order to reduce unwanted solar gain, the windows on the building's south side are smaller than those facing east and west, which in turn are smaller than openings on the north side of the building. "The anodised diamond lattice also provides additional solar shading," Cartwright added.

At ground floor level, entrances on three sides provide access to a central atrium that functions as a public route through the building. A cafeteria is situated in one corner, with teaching rooms and a lecture hall arranged around the thoroughfare.

The University of Sheffield by Twelve Architects

Full-height glazing lining the north and south edges of the public area provides views of the work being undertaken in the specialist engineering laboratories, which include a pilot plant, clean room, fluid dynamics laboratory and a virtual reality suite.

"Maximising the visual connection between the laboratories and the atrium showcases the range of activities and also supports the ethos of the building to promote collaboration and cross-disciplinary working," Cartwright claimed.

The University of Sheffield by Twelve Architects

Curved pods with integrated seating are arranged around the atrium, offering breakout spaces that can be used for personal study or group learning.

The first floor creates acoustic separation between the bustling common areas on the ground and lower ground levels, and the quieter study areas above.

The University of Sheffield by Twelve Architects

An open-plan study hall at the centre of this storey is lined with workshops and laboratories. Teaching areas housed in ovoid pods and a spiralling staircase provide focal points for the space.

Rooflights allow natural light to flood the study area. Circular desks surrounding glazed apertures ensure this light is able to reach the levels below.

The University of Sheffield by Twelve Architects

The lower ground floor is dedicated to a series of lecture theatres with a total capacity of 1,500. The largest seats 400 people.

The initial stages of the project were completed by the core team from Twelve Architects while they were working at global firm RMJM. They completed the design and delivery of the construction with infrastructure specialist Balfour Beatty.

The University of Sheffield by Twelve Architects

Cladding with a diamond pattern also feature on the facades of a university building in Liverpool, England, by Levitt Bernstein, and a mesh surface enclosing an office building in Deinze, Belgium by CAAN Architects.


Project credits:

Architect: Twelve Architects
Contractor: Balfour Beatty
Project and cost management: Turner & Townsend
Structural and civil: Arup
Fire: Arup
M&E: Arup, NG Bailey
Acoustician: SRL
Planning consultant: Montagu Evans
CDM co-ordinator: RLF
BREEAM assessment: 3 Planets
Major subcontractors:
Facade: Sipral
FF&E: Southerns
PT concrete structure: CCL & Moortown
Structural steelwork: Billington Structures
Internal partitions: British Gypsum & ECI Ltd
Internal glazing: Moda
MEP services: NG Bailey
Lecture theatres: Specialists in Seating
AV: SVN
Spiral stair: Dean Wilson
Major flooring supplier: Interface
Major internal door supplier: European Doorsets

The University of Sheffield by Twelve Architects
Lower ground floor plan – click for larger image
The University of Sheffield by Twelve Architects
Upper ground floor plan – click for larger image
The University of Sheffield by Twelve Architects
First floor plan – click for larger image
The University of Sheffield by Twelve Architects
Second floor plan – click for larger image
The University of Sheffield by Twelve Architects
Third floor plan – click for larger image
The University of Sheffield by Twelve Architects
Fourth floor plan – click for larger image
  • Harvey Wu

    An assemblage of everything in the architectural toolkit from the last thirty years perhaps? Interesting veil.

  • Chris

    As good as it looks, it’s far from practical. I should know as I’m a third year currently studying there! One such instance is the lack of water supply. In the whole building there are no water fountains (apparently an oversight of the developers), and as such the Uni has installed water coolers (three per floor). Bearing in mind there are 1000 study spaces, thats not an awful lot of water.

    Today we were told that at the peak of exam season, where everyone is busy revising, that the water delivery is not coming until tomorrow (and even thats not certain), and so we can only buy 500ml bottles of water from the cafe for £1.20.

  • Benjamin Thomas Hooper

    These photos seem to miss the services on the roof, which are quite visible from everywhere around the university. It also makes it look quite elegantly proportioned where in fact it is quite clumsily out of scale with all that’s around it and a damn sight taller than it appears.

    It does quite a good job of overshadowing the church and all the historic and well designed university buildings in the area. Sometimes the camera lies!

  • Leeds Arena.

  • Kevin Quigley

    Sheffield now has a new climbing-wall facility!