Sheffield Hallam University, Charles Street - Forterra


Bond Bryan Architects were appointed to develop Sheffield Hallam University’s Charles Street project after winning a national design competition. The project brief was developed by a shared collective vision between the client and Bond Bryan of creating a landmark building that encourages and supports innovative forms of teaching and learning.

The design concept is simple in that it uses the palimpsest of an historic lane as an urban design driver for the atrium space. The route itself functions as a showcase and social heart space for the building. Two flexible teaching blocks are positioned either side of the lane, clad in transparent and translucent glass panels. At the base the scheme opens out, showcasing the educational and social facilities within. The building is topped with a unique corten steel roofscape to reflect the historical significance of the site, creating a ‘landmark’ within the city.

Brickwork is a key component of the building and its context, Bond Bryan approached the design and detailing of this element as an opportunity to interact with the adjacent listed building, by creating a contemporary reflection of the existing brick detailing. Working alongside Forterra, Bond Ryan have utilised a pattern of projecting headers with single and double cant brickwork to create depth and address scale and massing. Aesthetically this particular brick was suggested and promoted to reflect the traditional red multi brick appearance of the heritage buildings adjacent. Additionally, the nature of the detailing within the brick facades demanded a brick of a highly durable and robust nature.

The Dark Multi Smooth facing brick is manufactured at Forterra’s Wilnecote factory in Staffordshire. The bricks are manufactured from the renowned Staffordshire Eturia Marl Clay, which is synonymous with bricks manufactured for the infrastructure of the railways and waterways that have performed admirably in these demanding applications since Victorian times.

At early pre-contract stage Bond Ryan worked alongside the specialist suppliers to look at the various practicalities with the shapes that formed the patterned detailing. This early understanding of the project enabled them to manufacture the bricks in an optimal manner to assist in achieving appropriate distinction in the details. Notably the single and double cant special shapes that form the diaper patterns are a slightly darker shade to pronounce the detail. This was achieved by firing bricks independently in supplementary “shuttle” kilns away from the main “tunnel” kiln which fires the standard facing bricks. This gives some flexibility on the firing profile of the special shapes to assist in subtly enhancing the detail. The process was also employed to manufacture the solid projecting bricks, with the team also able to re-configure the manufacture of the single and double cant special shapes to avoid any perforations occurring on the bed surface indentations.

All bricks for the project were made bespoke and reserved against a schedule of requirements submitted by Limetree Brickwork Contractors.

The completed elevations provide a real sense of place within the city’s Cultural Industries Quarter, a conservation area, and ensure a distinct dialogue with the context.