Case study

Transforming architecture with digital prototyping

A Contemporary solution

A digital solution created at the University of Derby has allowed highly detailed decorative concrete to be produced for a building heralded as an architectural triumph.

The solution was created by John Angus, our Director of Textile Studies. It enabled 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 University of Derby undergraduate textiles student who was a lace specialist produced the pattern but lace was not suitable for the master sample as it would remain trapped in the moulds. John came up with a novel idea that 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.

“[Nottingham Contemporary Arts Centre] might be the first masterpiece of British architecture of the 21st century.” Owen Hatherley in A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain.

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.

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