The Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury, London - a unique 1960s concrete structure featuring hundreds of stepped winter gardens - was recently deemed the most worthy candidate for a free upgrade to Pilkington Activ(tm), the world's first self-cleaning glass, as part of the Activ in Architecture competition. The Centre, which is being refurbished by architects Levitt Bernstein Associates of London, will now benefit from an upgrade to the innovative glazing product, Pilkington Activ(tm) self-cleaning glass.
A new competition run by Pilkington in association with RIBA Journal, Activ in Architecture was set up to find the most innovative projects for the world's most innovative glass, and was developed specifically for architects. Entrants were encouraged to use their architectural vision and show how the versatility and practicality of self-cleaning glass could benefit their latest project. Architects were invited to contribute suggestions regardless of size, the only provision being that a maximum of 7500m² of glazing could be utilised.
The grade-II listed Brunswick Centre was judged the clear winner of the competition due to its extremely unusual design and the complexity of its glazing considerations. Located between Kings Cross and Russell Square, the Centre is one of London's most recognisable and iconic buildings from the 1960s. Originally conceived by architect Patrick Hodgkinson, the Centre provides low-rise high-density housing, shops, offices/studios, a cinema and car parking within an awesome concrete and glass mega structure comprising 314 individual winter gardens.
The regeneration of the Centre entailed replacement of the glazing on each of these winter gardens, which created a difficult problem for Levitt Bernstein Associates. Peter Sanders, project director, explains:
"As the Centre is a grade II listed building, there are many design aspects that we have to maintain, including keeping the original glazing design. However, whilst the 'official' cleaning access to the winter garden glazing is via rolling gantries, they don't work very well. Consequently, cleaning is done via the integral gutters that stick out underneath the gardens. With 314 individual glass structures at heights of up to seven storeys, each with the sloping glass roof of another below it, this method is both dangerous and unproductive; much of the glass cannot be properly cleaned."
The Centre was therefore considered by the competition judges - including structural engineer and glass specialist Tim MacFarlane, Pilkington chief executive Stuart Chambers and RIBA Journal's Eleanor Young - as being the most worthy recipient of a Pilkington Activ(tm) upgrade at no extra cost. The revolutionary self-cleaning glass will simply work with natural rain and sun to break down organic dirt and keep the glazed areas clean, allowing the original design of the building to be clearly seen and appreciated.
A small domestic London residential project was also chosen as a secondary winner of the competition. Kiran Curtis Architects was asked by planners to create a distinct, different design solution for an infill site in a street of Victorian terraced houses in North London. The company decided upon an insulated glass façade with a moulded leaf pattern. The project will also benefit from a free upgrade to Pilkington Activ(tm) self-cleaning glass . Other short-listed projects included the Turner Contemporary Art Gallery in Margate (architects: Spence Associates), the Environment Centre for Wales in Bangor (architects: The Fairhurst Design Group) and the Centre Piece Church in Ashford, Kent (architects: The Roy Stone Design Partnership).
The refurbishment of the Brunswick Centre is just one of several measures being taken to preserve the standing of this important building: In order to create a fresh dialogue between the architecture of The Brunswick Centre, the local community and the general public, a group of residents have also recently teamed up with a local artist and curator. A unique art event and exhibition has been commissioned - The Brunswick Project - which plans to work with the specificity of the unusual building and bring it back to life.