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Winner: The David Attenborough Building, University of Cambridge. Entrant: Nicholas Hare Architects

In association with
Extensive refurbishment included a new ribbon curtain wall and the introduction of new undercroft glazing.
Extensive refurbishment included a new ribbon curtain wall and the introduction of new undercroft glazing. Credit: Alan Williams

How can a brutalist icon be reinvented as a thermally efficient and accessible building without losing its distinctive character? That was the challenge facing Nicholas Hare Architects in its major renovation of the David Attenborough Building at the University of Cambridge, which was completed by Arup Associates in 1971.

‘It was a very poorly performing building in a poor state of repair,’ says David Lowe, associate  Nicholas Hare Architects. ‘The whole curtain wall had to be replaced – it had to match as closely as possible to the appearance and rhythm of the original.’

As part of the renovations, Nicholas Hare glazed in the undercroft to create a café space using Schueco AWS 102 frameless opening vents within the Schueco FW 50+ facade.  More Schueco FW 50+ curtain walling creates a new double-height museum entrance, set in front of structural steel fabricated sections which support the roof from which the skeleton of a 20m finback whale is suspended. Schueco systems are also used for further doors and windows throughout the building and a four-storey glazed lift enclosure. 

In total, more than 750 different curtain walling drawings were produced in collaboration with specialist subcontractor Prism Architectural and Schueco’s technical department to tackle the diverse detailing conditions around the landmark structure, which was formerly known as the New Museums Building.

Judges were impressed with the way the project had improved the building’s performance and had upgraded it for contemporary needs. 

‘What was a very good building to start with has been given a new lease of life by an intelligent glazing system,’ says Cindy Walters.

Client: University of Cambridge

Architect: Nicholas Hare Architects

Structural engineer: Aecom

Main contractor: Kier Construction

Specialist contractor: Prism Architectural


  • On the east and west facades, new top-hung windows are inserted into reclad bays.
    On the east and west facades, new top-hung windows are inserted into reclad bays. Credit: Alan Williams

The Schueco FW 50+ replacement respects the sectional size of the original ribbon curtain walling windows and the castellated, alternate frameless sill detail. 

However, the fenestration pattern of alternately opening and fixed lights is reversed to increase the ventilation by having the larger of the two as the top hung opening panel rather than the smaller one.

On the west and east facades, the practice replaced expanses of cracked lead panels with anodised aluminium inset with new Schueco AWS 70.HI framed, top hung outward opening lights.


Brighton College Music School, Brighton
Entrant: UKTOP

Creating a 13m by 13m glazed facade is challenging enough, but at Brighton College Music School, designed by Eric Parry Architects, the main facade had to be tested to withstand cricket balls fired into it at up to 80mph, as it sits next to a playing field.

Specialist contractor UKTOP says in fact the most difficult part was accommodating the +50/-50mm side rocking of the roof and the glazing. This was achieved using an 80mm wide, laser-welded Schueco Jansen VISS Ixtra steel system with staggered mullions and transoms of 80, 260 and 450mm depth to cope with wind load and movement. Spliced corner mullions with a concertina gasket between deal with excessive side movement.

‘The challenge was how to keep the front and back still to allow the side glazing to rock with the roof,’ says UKTOP managing director Peter Hristov, adding that the same result would have been very difficult to achieve in aluminium rather than steel.

This strategy helped to minimise the roof structure so that at night, the illuminated roof, which is topped by glazed terracotta tiles and supported by front, side and back glazing, appears to be suspended in the air.

The other key Schueco installation was at the rear, where a curved staircase enclosure is formed by Schueco Jansen structural glazed windows, roof lights and fire-rated screens.

Judges liked the unusual arrangement of the main elevation, with Steve Mudie particularly appreciating the visual dynamic of the mullion arrangement and the unusual use of the Schueco Jansen steel system.

Client: Brighton College

Architect: Eric Parry Architects

Structural engineer: Momentum Consulting

Main contractor: R Durtnell & Sons 

Specialist contractor: UKTOP

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