University of Brighton, Priory Square, Hastings

29 March 2012

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Priory Square is a second set of premises for the University of Brighton in Hastings, East Sussex. The new building was built on the site of a poor quality rear extension to the town's main Post Office which had been built during the 1960s. Whilst the design called for an impressive and contemporary construction reflecting its use as a twenty first century learning environment, consideration was given to harmonising the external appearance with its more traditional neighbour.

The primary building envelope was a glazed curtain walling which would create a light and spacious interior. In order to connect this visually to the Post Office horizontal fins in both horizontal and vertical orientation were to be hung from the concrete frame. Originally these were intended to be in either natural stone or pre cast concrete, however as the design got underway it became apparent that supporting the dead weight load would not only be difficult but very costly.

GRCUK became involved and were able to develop a solution which allowed the GRC elements to be fitted back to steel support posts and brackets. Whilst this was quite easy at upper levels where the panels were some 1300mm deep the design was far more complex at lower level where the return was significantly less. Thedesign called for the use of innovative "folding" moulds which allowed a high quality architectural quality face to be provided on three exposed surfaces—top, front and underside. In addition a close match to the adjacent stonework was an employers requirement.

After a complex design, manufacture and installation process everyone is delighted with the finished works which showcase how lightweight GRC can deliver the illusion of solid hewn stonework.

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