Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Architect: Purcell Miller Tritton LLP
Type of works: design and manufacture of a drainage system to prevent standing water.

Preventing standing water in the entrance courtyard to the new extension to Wolverhampton Art Gallery is a visually striking drainage system developed by built environment drainage specialist, ACO Building Drainage. The all stainless-steel system combines bespoke radius and slot channels with circular gullies to create a drainage network that both complements and adds a unique aesthetic quality to the new contemporary façade and entrance.

The new extension, which is due to open in March 2007, is the creation of Bristol-based architect Purcell Miller Tritton LLP. It is designed to hold the gallery’s collection of pop art and will also provide a permanent exhibition space for its important collection of works which include Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Peter Blake, Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi amongst others. The £7million, heritage lottery funded project adds close to an extra 1,000m2 to the gallery and makes a strong visual statement that contrasts the neo-gothic frontage of the existing building.

One major challenge facing the architect, was the provision of level-threshold perimeter drainage around the drum entrance door. “Perfect curve channel drains are traditionally very expensive and extremely time consuming to manufacture to tight tolerances. At Wolverhampton, the specification criteria was particularly challenging as not only were we after an exact radius channel drain to fit the drum door but it also had to be split across a series of steps and give the performance we needed with a shallow invert,” says Luke Brennan at Niall Phillips Architects.

Following recent investments in specialised fabrication facilities at its UK manufacturing facility, ACO Building Drainage has been able to overcome the traditional obstacles of bespoke manufacture, allowing architects to realise the full design potential of curved drainage channels and gratings in sensitive areas such as that at Wolverhampton. To guarantee that, when installed, the channel gave the appearance of a perfect continuous curve, ACO manufactured the channel - together with its parallel radius slot grating - as a single unit. This allowed the installation team to cut the channel to the exact size on site, ensuring a precision fit across the steps adjacent to the door.

“The finished appearance is exactly what we had specified,” says Luke Brennan. “ACO’s design team worked closely with us from the start. This gave us the confidence that the approach taken would deliver the outcomes – visual, installation and cost – that we were expecting.”

Linking to the perimeter channel around the door are six runs of ACO Brickslot – a total installed length of 70m. Each unobtrusive run, which fits between the Jura limestone paviours across the entrance courtyard, ends at a stainless steel point gully that feeds into the main rainwater sewer serving the whole site. The network creates a distinctive architectural feature that harmonises with the floor-level lighting and the elongated rectangular cut of the granite slabs.

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