This property was built for healthcare provider Simplyhealth (now part of the AXA group) to replace the company’s former leased premises, which had reached capacity. The company chose the location for its new offices on the Whiteladies Road conservation area in Clifton, which overlooks the historic Downs. It had previously been the site of a bank building that had stood empty for some years.
Ferguson Mann Architects along with delivery architects Webb Gray & Partners worked closely with Bristol Planning Department and Conservation Officers in order to develop a suitable design which is modern, sustainable and environmentally friendly, in addition to being architecturally sympathetic to the built environment and heritage of the area.
In terms of composition, the design of the new building was broken into three clearly defined and expressed parts, with the lowest adjacent to Harper House and the tallest on to Redland Hill. The varied roofscape, with its vertical tower, echoed some of the taller buildings that line the east side of The Downs, whilst the overall design and scale of the building respected the topography and the panoramic views.
The choice of external materials for the façade, which included ashlar natural stone and high quality handmade bricks, were key to the design in reflecting the urban character of the area. The Architect’s strategy was to create striking elevations, using an orange/red multi, which would bring life to the appearance of the building, particularly in the changing light. The concept drew inspiration from traditional 18th/19th century brickwork and also contemporary buildings, which use brick in a way that is modern with traditional references.
Selected for their distinctive handmade character, Northcot Brick’s range of ‘Lyneham Red’ bricks were manufactured using traditional bench mould techniques – then fired in one of the country’s last remaining coal-fired kilns to produce their warm mellow clay tones.
The façade was further enhanced by Flemish bond coursing, flat voussoir brick arches. These featured the subtle orange tones and light texture of Northcot’s ‘Plumstead Orange’ and mullions with ‘stone’ keystones.
The brickwork sets the rhythm and character for the whole design and was important in creating and presenting an elevation, which was not in any way mechanical in its appearance, but had a subtle texture and variety. The use of a stone colonnade at the base of the principal west facing elevation denoting the entrance and the set back veranda structure at the top also added a sense of dignity to the whole structure. In addition, the external envelope was designed with 300mm deep reveals to all window openings, to provide depth to the façade, which also contributed to part of the solar control strategies for the envelope.