Facing up to the future

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When it came to dressing to the new biosciences building for Manchester University, architect Sheppard Robson compared 30 aluminium tiles from its cladding specialist sub-contractor James & Taylor before choosing several different degrees of reflectivity and colour.

The finish to the Michael Smith Building uses four anodised finishes on a range of mirror-polished and highly etched Senses aluminium tiles. A 'random' pattern was devised to ensure the different finishes were distributed across the elevation to give a cohesive façade.

The resultant metallic patchwork of 7,500 tiles, covering more than 16,000 sq ft, shimmers and changes with the natural light.

Alex Solk, partner at Sheppard Robson, said: "The brief was to close the quadrangle of the research building, completing the design of the whole development, which Sheppard Robson has been working on since 2001.

"The resulting façade is one which develops and relates to the elevational treatment of the existing three wings. Through the design process with James & Taylor we developed a standard panel and were also able to develop bespoke profiles for soffits and reveals, creating a new corner detail and a number of surfaces finishes to enliven the façade. We are extremely pleased with the final result, which provides a crisp line never seen before in metal rainscreen cladding, and clearly identifies this final section of the building in an exciting new way."

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