Traditional Materials for a Modern Look

December 19, 2016   |   By

When you are tasked with designing a new building amongst a cluster of listed buildings it can be difficult to know where to start. You don`t want your building to look exactly the same as the listed buildings but likewise, you don`t want it to look completely out of place. So how can you achieve that magical blend of traditional yet modern?

nazrin shah limestone by stamford stone

Architects, Niall McLaughlin Architects have one answer, as shown in their recent development – the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre – nestled amongst Grade I listed buildings for Oxford University`s Worcester College. They have used traditional materials, which have been used in the area for years, teamed with modern techniques and design ideas to create a truly innovative auditorium and conference centre whilst blending it in perfectly to its surroundings.

Mix of Traditional and Modern

nazrin shah centre stone by stamford stone evening

The use of Clipsham Limestone with oak timber make up the traditional materials and glass and reinforced gypsum giving it the more modern look. But the interesting mix of modern and traditional doesn`t stop there. The techniques used to extract and shape the Clipsham Limestone are state of the art, and, surprisingly, the builders used traditional man-power to lay the stone blocks.

Clipsham Limestone

nazrin shah centre angle dusk

Clipsham Limestone is used in the facades of the building and over 500 tonnes of it is needed. It comes from the quarries north of Peterborough, run by Stamford Stone, and has a uniquely wide tonal variation from blues to pinks. The famous limestone is well known for having been used in famous, and distinct buildings such as Windsor Castle, York Minster, Kings College Chapel in Cambridge – and many buildings in the Oxford area.

Clipsham Limestone is a traditional looking limestone which gives a traditional, local, yet grand look to a building – perfect for the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre project.

The stone was excavated and cut using modern CNC cutting techniques, to give the exact shape and dimensions that were required. The blocks were then transported to the site and laid by pure – traditional – man power – three men lifting and placing each one. As effortless as it may seem there are a lot of hidden techniques behind the laying of the limestone to give the exact look that the architects desired.

Other Materials

nazrin shah centre interior seating

The Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre teamed the traditional Clipsham Limestone with oak timber to maintain the old, traditional look, and then used newer materials such as glass to give it a modern touch.

There is a certain degree of difficulty in blending old and new, whether it is techniques or materials, and this project didn`t go without problems which had to be overcome. However, with good planning, most issues can be overcome, as proved by the success of this project.

We don`t always want new buildings to look space-age, especially when we are taking location into account. By using a mixture of traditional materials such as limestone and oak, with new ones, and modern techniques, architects can create the perfect blend of new and old, to construct a building to please everyone.