[WORKING DETAIL 27.08.09] Cladding, Carnival Arts Centre by Ash Sakula
Brancusi column − A witty reflection upon Constantin Brancusi’s famous sculpture Endless Column, this element is also partly inspired by timber constructions which are often used to protect fragile corners of carnival floats. ‘It’s heavy and stunted and has a lot of cheek, but it holds some kinetic energy too, liked a compressed spring,’ says Ash. A fig tree sprouts alongside it on site, and together they form a natural meeting space. The column is clad with horizontal European oak wedge-shaped sections, approximately 600mm high by 300mm deep. These are fixed to treated sawn wood battens, nominally 80 x 30mm, with weathered top edges. Stainless steel woodscrews fix the battens to timber studs behind.
Brick − CAC’s perimeter is defined by a 4.2m brick wall enclosing most of the site, which is centrally located adjacent to Luton’s university campus and a Grade I-listed church. ‘The brickwork acts as a heavy acoustic shell to the centre’s performance, making and teaching spaces,’ says Ash. The pattern, formed with Hanson’s blue-grey engineering brick and Roben’s white brick, is a sound wave abstraction of a carnival-associated samba rhythm. Ash Sakula specified thin-joint brickwork. ‘We wanted 5mm joints on facing brick so the masonry appears as the dominant surface.’ Often called glued brickwork, it is in fact rapid-setting mortar that can pass through a polyjet glue gun and sets more rapidly
Fence − Alongside the brickwork, the site perimeter is marked by 4.2m-high fencing, made from wood posts and MMA Architectural Systems’ stainless steel mesh. Ash explains: ‘It is open and secure and provides continuity to the facade. The vertical rhythm is staked out with 200mm-diameter machine rounded telegraph poles, while the mesh, with its distorted horizontal wires, casts beautiful shadows. It suggests some craft and precision in its making. It is made to measure on site.’ Joints are bolted and mitred, with inset external-grade nuts and bolts, and the mesh is MMA’s 2mm Web-net product. Ash says it can ‘stop apes in London Zoo’. If vandalised, the cover afforded by the crimped junctions is easy to repair.
Bamboo − Bamboo, treated for fungus and insect infestation, has been used to clad the office entrance pods and the toilets that serve the crèche. Bamboo is still the carcass material for most carnival costumes: it’s easy to lash together and create large shapes. ‘The bamboo stakes go beyond the top of the pods, which give them a delicacy and, again, throw some good shadows,’ says Ash. With a 30/35mm diameter, the bamboo stakes are fairly thin but can still be fixed using traditional bamboo nails, which work better than galvanised nails.