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London Metropolitan University Graduate Centre

In August 2002, the London Guildhall University merged with the University of North London to form the London Metropolitan University. Its headquarters are situated on the Holloway Road, once part of the Great North Road and just down Highgate Hill from where, legend has it, Dick Whittington heard the sound of Bow bells and ‘turned again’ to become three times Lord Mayor of London.

Holloway is a stark area, not usually associated with landmark architecture, so all the more surprising that back on campus a more tangible piece of history is in evidence, where the new building housing the Graduate Centre at the London Metropolitan University is being hailed as one of the most exciting developments in London. Designed by the internationally renowned architect, Daniel Libeskind, it consists of a lecture theatre, seminar room, and social space, providing the University with the resources to offer research and postgraduate programmes of the highest level. Libeskind’s designs have been accepted for the redevelopment of the World Trade Centre site in New York, a 1,776ft glass tower, which will easily exceed the height of Malaysia's Petronas Towers, currently the world's tallest building. His portfolio also includes the Jewish Museum in Berlin, the Denver Art Museum and Manchester’s Imperial War Museum.

Inspired by the Constellation of Orion

He explains the inspiration behind his concept for the new Graduate School, which has no vertical or horizontal lines. “Orion - the spatial emblem of the northern sky - is the guiding light for developing a unique icon for the London Metropolitan University on Holloway Road. The project has an enlivening impact on the wider urban context and particularly on the image and accessibility of the University. The three intersecting elements that form the building strategically emphasise certain relationships: one creates a connection between the public, the new building and the university behind; one form gestures from the university toward the tube connection to the city and one more regular form stitches the new building into the context of Holloway Road. A small plaza at the entrance provides an accent and an engaging gateway. The Orion building itself is composed of three intersecting volumes with a distinctive presence on the street and unique interior spaces. The building is clad entirely with embossed coloured stainless steel panels creating a shining and ever-changing surface. Windows are conceived as large geometrical cuts providing accentuated natural light for the café, galleries and seminars. The interior spaces are simple, bold volumes which provide multi-purpose flexibility for programmatic events."

Demanding Ceiling, Superior Acoustics

The acoustic ceiling requirements in the Graduate School lecture theatre are demanding and it needed an exceptional product to meet the required performance. Quite apart from the need for speech intelligibility and the avoidance of any distractions from echo or distortion during lectures, there is the social element as well. People inevitably mingle and chat before and after a session and with little sound absorbency in the floors or walls, the acoustic ceiling has to work hard. The choice was StoSilent Panel Alu System and its first challenge was the building’s geometry. The ceiling slopes in two different directions and there are metal strips crossing at unlikely angles, which carry spotlights and air conditioning vents – the pattern of the metal strips continuing the Orion constellation theme. The StoSilent boards used in this system are extremely light, making them easy to handle and cut on site but at the same time they are extremely tough and durable. These features allow the panels to easily accommodate both the unusual ceiling contours and the various mechanical and electrical services carried in the recesses. The ceiling void itself acts as a plenum for the air conditioning system, requiring a sound pervious, but non-porous backing on the ceiling panels to prevent particle migration and consequent staining of the panels. StoSilent Panel Alu, has an impermeable thin glass fleece layer and mineral coating which is factory applied to the reverse side of the panels precisely for this purpose and is equally at home in other areas where a plenum might exist, such as swimming pools or leisure centres.

A Classically Seamless Performance

At the core of the StoSilent ceiling system is the StoSilent Panel, which allows the construction of surface areas up to 200m2 with no expansion joints, providing a completely seamless appearance. Variable heights, three-dimensional shapes, steps, curves, recessed or edge lighting are readily accommodated to create a functional, highly aesthetic space. This sound absorbent board, manufactured from 96% recycled glass and mixed with a binder, provides sound absorption values, which average an impressive 0.65 aW. The sound absorbency of the surface improves the sound quality, particularly in the speech band frequency between 250-2000 hertz, – an important characteristic in the lecture theatre, where the ceiling deadens the reverberation time (RT), by absorbing the sound and passing it through the StoSilent Panel Alu into the void behind where it is dissipated as heat. The substrate is coated with StoSilent Superfein acoustic fibre-free plaster in a choice of 465 colours from the StoColor System, to match practically any interior design requirement.

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London Metropolitan University Graduate Centre

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