Transforming architecture with digital prototyping
Our design tutor, John Angus, created a digital solution allowing highly detailed decorative concrete to be produced for a building heralded as an architectural triumph.
This was to enable the embossing of an enlarged Victorian lace pattern in precast concrete around the £20m Nottingham Contemporary Arts Centre on Nottingham’s old Lace Market, once the heart of the world’s lace industry.
A lace specialist and a textiles student at our university produced the pattern, but lace was not suitable for the master sample, as it would remain trapped in the moulds. John’s novel idea involved digitally producing the master mould and combining Photoshop with bespoke software to drive laser engraving machinery, creating a physical low-relief master mould replicating only the visible upper surfaces of the lace.
When the Nottingham Contemporary Arts Centre first opened, with its stunning facia embossed with the historic lace pattern in high-resolution relief, it attracted international attention for its extraordinary photorealistic surfaces.
A similar commission saw John develop another innovative mould for the Barratt London Maple Quays development of high-end apartments in London Docklands. These were clad in Glass Reinforced Concrete panels decorated with stylised maple leaves.
Both innovations were a success and led to the construction of two striking buildings that visually enhanced and referenced their local areas. “[Nottingham Contemporary Arts Centre] might be the first masterpiece of British architecture of the twenty-first century”, says Owen Hatherley in A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain.