Frederick Douglass Centre - Newcastle Helix


Expanded mesh cladding system inspired by Newcastle-born mathematician Louis Fry Richardson creates a stunning visual effect on the Frederick Douglass Centre at Newcastle Helix.

The Frederick Douglass Centre at Newcastle University is a £34 million flagship development forming part of the Newcastle Helix scheme (formerly known as Science Central). The building functions as a learning and teaching facility in honour of the US anti-slavery campaigner, who was accommodated nearby the Helix site.

The exterior of the ‘Learning Arc’ as described by the architects, Sheppard Robson, has a strong vertical expression formed of perforated panels – which allows for natural ventilation – and more solid elements of back-painted glass.  This forms a rhythm to the façade which follows the structure of the building’s concrete frame. The top level is lighter in form and is expressed in expanded aluminium mesh.

The auditorium uses a cladding system inspired by the Newcastle-born mathematician Louis Fry Richardson whose pioneering work defined modern methods of weather forecasting. Fry Richardson’s work, which subdivided the planet into hexagonal zones, has been expressed in expanded aluminium mesh on the external elevations of the auditorium. A pattern has been created by the changing the orientation of the mesh, varying the opacity of the material. 



Amron Architectural worked directly with Dane Architectural who took the architects design intent and turned it into a working external facade which included 468 hexagonal and trapezoidal alternating expanded mesh panels. Several expanded mesh specifications where considered but Zircon 122L expanded mesh was chosen due to its unique appearance and large open area. 

Expanded mesh was the ideal material to use for the facade due to its ability of having 4 alternate faces, so from different angles the mesh would appear transparent and solid at the same time, giving the architects the desired opacity they envisaged. 

“The Frederick Douglass Centre as a purpose-built educational space is a major boost to our commitment to deliver the best possible experience and excellent facilities for learning and teaching for our students and staff.”
Professor Suzanne Cholerton, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, Newcastle University


Amron Architectural worked closely with Dane Architectural to take their designs and drawings and provide full fabrication drawings for each panel. Once all the drawings where approved Amron manufactured expanded mesh blanks that were water jet cut to the exact size, ensuring all the panels where cut in the right orientation. After water jet cutting the expanded mesh all the panels were framed by skilled metalworkers and powder coated to a Syntha Pulvin finish which provides a 25-year guarantee on the finish on all the of panels.

Jonathan Reed, Director of Amron Architectural said:

"It is a great honour and privilege to be able to provide such a unique facade for a top UK University, continuing education is something we are passionate about at Amron. We worked closely with Dane Architectural and the project team to ensure that all of the components we supplied were manufactured within the UK, something which we are pushing for on each project we are involved in."


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