Perforated metal cladding both disguises and reveals the activities within Morris & Company’s Energy Hub at Elephant Park
The Energy Hub at London’s Elephant Park development at Elephant & Castle contains a combined heat and power plant, employing natural gas and biomethane to serve up to 4,000 homes. The sculptured volume, comprising a perforated metal skin wrapped over a more robust and solid core, also houses a cafe and early years nursery.
Architect Morris & Company was keen to highlight the mixed uses within the building. Where possible, relationships and facilities are shared, visual connections are made, and a wider engagement established to the surrounding context.
Facade detail and views by day and night, when the inner windows are revealed through the cladding.
The building acts as a buffer to the busy Heygate Street, providing views into the industrial workings of the energy centre, while sheltering the entrance to the nursery and community space to the east.
Both the massing and facades are configured to simultaneously conceal and reveal activities within. A composition of different-sized windows punctuates the aluminium skin, corresponding to the various programmes within, with picture windows offering an educational perspective into energy generation. On the upper levels the nursery has large windows at which the children can sit, and terraces overlook the local school and terrace rooftops.
The perforated aluminium facade conceals a secondary set of openable windows and louvres that reveal themselves when the building is lit from within, suggesting a changing personality between day and night.
The building envelope evolved during an extensive design process that investigated the concept of the lightweight, semi-translucent outer jacket over a robust, solid core. The outer material was required to mediate the various demands for ventilation grilles, access doors et cetera, while unifying the overall form into a coherent sculptural whole.
Samples board, with profiled cladding on the left. The facade has a key role in concealing louvres, removable servicing panels, service doors and secondary windows, and the architects specified a bespoke perforated and profiled anodised mesh, made from 3mm aluminium to preclude visible distortions, and with 10mm holes at 15mm centres to achieve 40 per cent clear open area to meet the ventilation requirement for grilles concealed behind the mesh.
A concrete base wraps around the building, with red aggregate revealed next to the entrances in reference to the surrounding Victorian red brick buildings. The base varies in height, concealing service and access doors, and extending over the entrances to create oversized architraves, and enable key views through punctured apertures.
At the top of the building the outer skin extends beyond the inner core and the outline steps up and down as one circles it, creating a sense that the material bleeds into the sky, softening the building edges and helping ground the building in its surroundings.