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Aberystwyth Artists' Studios

Aberystwyth, Wales

Heatherwick Studio won a competition to design low-cost facilities for sixteen start-up arts enterprises for Aberystwyth Arts Centre, part of the University of Wales Aberystwyth.

Reluctant to dilute the wooded character of the site by superimposing a single campus-style block, the studio chose instead to set eight smaller buildings among the trees. These consist of simple timber frame sheds, split down their centre and pulled apart to provide light and ventilation and a shared entrance area.

The studio developed a special cladding system for the buildings. As stainless steel is everlasting but expensive, the studio sourced steel the thickness of cooking foil. This makes it affordable, but it crinkles easily, providing neither structural rigidity nor insulation. These problems are overcome by crinkling it in a controlled manner before spraying a CFC-free insulation foam on the back of the crinkled surface. The paneling is affordable, rigid and well insulated; it accommodates details like eaves and windowsills and has a non- uniformity, reflecting the forest’s leaves and pieces of sky in its facets.

The project was officially launched in May 2009 and all sixteen units are already occupied.

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