The site is within a flood zone, which required the design to follow strict guidance from the Environment Agency. As a result the building has been lifted above the ground to allow water to pass beneath through perforations within the façade in the event of a flood. Whilst hollow beneath, the building is intended to be read as a solid construction of stonework. This was achieved through ground beams supporting a network of dwarf walls beneath the ground floor, on which the precast floor planks are supported. The blockwork and steelwork structure rises from this deck. This raising of the structure facilitated an innovative M&E servicing strategy, with the ventilation ductwork for the auditorium located within the floor void and supplying the plenum beneath the amphitheatre style seating of the Auditorium.
Along the façade facing the cricket pitch, a proscenium contains two seminar rooms which bookend an open loggia. The stone fins are capped by a sloping stone soffit, which we wanted to appear as solid, despite the requirement for supporting steelwork to the rear. The sub-contractor designed supporting bracketry cleverly achieves this, extending from a series of SHS that stretch between the vertical RHS that provide restraint to each of the stone fins.
Moving from the Foyer in to the Tuanku Bainun Auditorium is intended to be fluid, as the two spaces merge when the fifteen sets of full height doors are opened. The radially arranged rising stone fins around the edge of the Auditorium signify the heart of the building, moving from internal to external conditions, in both vertical and horizontal planes. At ground level, the fins incorporate pockets for the doors so that they can disappear, and appear at the push of a button to separate the spaces when the Auditorium is in lecture mode. The use of thermally broken steel support structure allowed the upper level external fins to sit above their equivalents at lower level whilst maintaining the high thermal values required.
Alastair Crockett, Níall McLaughlin Architects