Construction of a new £17m visitor attraction at Woodhorn Colliery in Northumberland has been completed. The iconic building designed by RMJM Architects features extensive use of curtain walling from architectural aluminium specialists, Technal – both for the external envelope and inside the centre.

The project, which forms part of the Queen Elizabeth II Country Park, combines the Woodhorn Colliery Museum with new state-of-the-art county archives. Its design has a landmark quality and is also sympathetic to the original mining structures on the site, some of which are Grade II listed and designated scheduled monuments.

The scheme has been developed by Wansbeck District Council and Northumberland County Council with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and aims to attract more than 75,000 visitors a year. The main contractors were Bovis Lend Lease.

The building has a radial layout and is topped by a spectacular serrated roof structure, which was formed from more than 200 tonnes of steel cantilever beams. This eye-catching centrepiece resembles the coal cutting machinery used below ground and creates a strong and contemporary statement for the future.

The slender profiles of Technal’s curtain walling enclose sheer panes of glass and provide an effective contrast with the gabion cladding – mesh boxes containing stone blocks.

Unusually, the curtain walling was also used to form a full height facetted glazed screen in the centre of the building. This dramatic feature supports timber brise soleil sunshading and separates the public search room that forms part of the county archive facilities, from the museum gallery spaces.

Commenting on the use of the curtain walling, Conor Pitman, Project Architect at RMJM, said, “Our requirement was for slim mullion and transom sections that would provide a neat and slender structure to carry the clear panes of glass. Technal’s system offered us best value whilst meeting our performance criteria. This was a complex project because of the geometric configuration of the building and we are delighted with the finished scheme which is a fantastic new attraction for the North of England.”

Fabricated by AC Yule, the curtain walling was finished in a grey polyester powder coating and glazed in 6mm clear toughened outer and 6mm clear toughened low E inner glass. Multi-laminates and UV filtration were used for the glazing to the gallery spaces, where the glass had to achieve a higher specification and security rating to meet Government requirements for visiting exhibitions.

Because of the nature of the displays and archives, the building is highly environmentally conditioned. Electronically controlled casement windows from Technal’s FXi65 range were therefore used to provide smoke vents inserted into the curtain walling on the front façade and into rainscreen cladding and render on the rear elevation.

The new building provides a range of facilities, including a café, dedicated displays and temporary galleries, a flexible community space and county archive stores on the upper floor with a public search room to facilitate document retrieval.

Project Name: Woodhorn Colliery, Visitor Attraction
Project Location: Northumberland

MX curtain walling and FXi65 aluminium windows

MX curtain walling and FXi65 aluminium windows