Copper in the Park
Distinctive Nordic Brown Light pre-oxidised copper cladding plays a unifying role in Glancy Nicholls Architects’ competition-winning design of the Chamberlain Hall complex for the University of Birmingham.
Set in a ‘listed’ historic park, the new complex replaces 20th century buildings that proved unsuitable for modern, sustainable student accommodation and unfeasible to improve. Conceived as a landmark tower with three adjacent, linear ‘finger’ wings, the complex provides 726 student rooms, split into 5 and 6 en-suite bedroomed clusters and 1-bedroom studios. Communal facilities including a bar, restaurant and conference space are provided in the ground floor of the tower.
The footprint of the new complex sits within the perimeter of the previous buildings, minimising impact on the surrounding parkland. The architects’ ambition was to create a cohesive concept using materials and building forms to tie together the development as a whole. On the three ‘finger’ wings, brickwork matching local buildings acts as a ‘grounding’ material at low level with Nordic Brown Light pre-oxidised copper cladding as a striking, robust and high-quality finish above. The ends of the wings overlooking the park are highlighted by copper frames projecting out to add solar shading.
Conceived as ‘a landmark for the University within the wider city skyline’, the tower is based on a cranked X-shape plan with two elements, one 21-storeys, the other 17-storeys, linked by glazing overlooking two local landmarks. The taller element is brick, contrasting with its copper clad neighbour which appears to float above the entrance pavilion. The copper cladding on all the buildings incorporates perforated copper panels for natural ventilation to bedroom units and living spaces, opened internally.
Project architect Parminder Degan commented on the choice of Nordic Brown Light pre-oxidised copper: “The challenge was to provide a material for the tower which responds well to the autonomous colours of the site. Copper is a natural product which changes over time. The pre-oxidised finish accelerated the ageing process of the copper from a shiny material and provides a dark brown finish more in keeping with the site”.
Nordic Brown products are pre-oxidised at Aurubis’ factory to give straightaway the same oxidised brown surface that otherwise develops over time in the environment. The thickness of the oxide layer determines the colour - either Nordic Brown Light or the darker Nordic Brown – and the darkening oxidisation process continues in the natural environment.
Other Aurubis Architectural surfaces include Nordic Standard ‘mill finish’, as well as Nordic Green and Nordic Blue factory-applied patinas developed with properties and colours based on the same brochantite mineralogy found in natural patinas all over the world. Aurubis copper alloys include Nordic Brass – also available pre-weathered – Nordic Bronze and the innovative Nordic Royal with a long-lasting golden colour.
Aurubis is part of the world’s leading integrated copper group and largest copper recycler. For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: www.aurubis.com/finland/architectural
Photo: Alastair Carew-Cox