The Merlin Centre, Marlborough Science Academy, St Albans
Slim frames maximise natural light
Built on a constricted site within the grounds of Marlborough Science Academy, The Merlin Centre is home to the Academy’s sixth form and music department, as well as computer suites and classrooms. Generous natural light is a key feature of the Centre, with slim framed VELFAC windows maximising daylight throughout an interior divided by glazed internal screens.
Small VELFAC units are installed around the ground floor, with larger units combined to create generous first floor window runs and distinctive glazed bays which form part of a café area. A two storey, fully glazed entrance has also been installed, surrounding a heavy duty aluminium VELFAC door. An additional run of smaller units creates a clerestory window below the eaves which echoes the main Academy building and incorporates motorised vents as part of a natural ventilation system.
‘Having used VELFAC in other school projects we knew it was very durable, but we also felt that the composite frame was the ideal architectural fit for the Centre,’ comments architect Jennifer Elbourn. ‘External aluminium framing – finished in black / grey – provides a visual link with the surrounding school buildings while the natural timber internal frame, finished in a clear lacquer, creates a more relaxed feel for the sixth form rooms and café. It also complements the wooden floors and the sound absorbing wood panelling which is a feature of the entrance hall.’
VELFAC bespoke window manufacture also meant Jennifer could realise her brief with standard units: ‘VELFAC can deliver multiple variations of window shape and function with their standard system,’ she comments. ‘For example, as well as fixed, opening and motorised lights, we also installed acoustic glazing around the music rooms so that nearby offices were not disturbed when students were practising or being taught.
The uniform VELFAC frame means that every unit retains identical sightlines, whatever the function, which is a definite advantage in education projects where window performance can vary so widely across a building.’
The Merlin Centre was completed in autumn 2018, built to a fast programme and on a tight budget, and welcomed its first students in November 2018.
Architect: Elbourn Architects