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First look

Moxon Architects rework Fraserburgh's civic hub with weathered steel ‘saddlebag’

  • 2 Comments

The completed restoration of two central civic buildings forms a new unified headquarters building for Aberdeenshire Council

The project restores the existing Town House council building and rehabilitates the derelict police station. A third component, a new build contemporary three-storey extension to the rear – described by the architects as like a ‘saddlebag’ – is clad in a veil of weathered steel. This is designed to bind the two existing buildings together, providing much improved vertical and horizontal circulation and unencumbered access to all levels, as well as a new ‘front of house’ to council services. 

In addition, a community enterprise suite has been incorporated into the building – providing a much-needed resource for start-up companies in support of local economic diversification.

Moxon fraserburgh © simon kennedy 102

Moxon fraserburgh © simon kennedy 102

Source: Simon Kennedy

The overall design is intended to make the whole civic complex more accessible to the public, reinvigorating a central part of the town, which sits within the Town Centre Conservation Area. As such the extensive restoration of the Town House, which was originally designed in 1853 by architect Thomas Mackenzie, aims to be an exemplar for reinstatement of original architectural detail in the town centre, which is characterised by both handsome 19th century masonry architecture and sheer-sided fish processing sheds. 

The Town House was originally built of sandstone blocks, which have been catalogued, drawn and replaced with matching stone from the Spynie Quarry in Elgin. Externally the building’s prominent rotunda, statuary and external joinery have been restored, while inside work has included the restoration of mouldings and original patterned lincrusta wall coverings. 

Moxon fraserburgh © simon kennedy 068

Moxon fraserburgh © simon kennedy 068

Source: Simon Kennedy

The use of weathering steel and curtain walling on the new extension allow it to be visually distinct from the original buildings whilst providing views through to the 19th century masonry. Acting as a rain-screen, it is designed to be enlivened by the movement of building users, creating an animated layering of reflection, shadow and light. 

The new elements account for only 28% of the combined built volume but are intended to radically improve accessibility, while a new system provides low carbon air source heating for the entire building.

Moxon fraserburgh © simon kennedy 027

Moxon fraserburgh © simon kennedy 027

Source: Simon Kennedy

Architect’s View

The weathering steel rainscreen cladding was procured separately to the building works. This allowed the design team to collaborate closely with the fabricator ‘offline’ from the main contract – with key considerations including hidden fixing and jointing details for the panels developed with a locally-based specialist.

The rainscreen is made from a series of cassette panels, each spanning a full storey height and aligning with the setting out of the curtain walling behind. The largest panel installed in a single lift is 3.2m wide and 3.7m tall – the large module format being crucial to the design approach, deliberately echoing the scale of harbourside buildings nearby and the plated steel components used in the construction of the fishing vessels moored in the harbour. The overall project programme provided 4 months for survey, manufacture and installation – a relatively short timeframe when one also considers accelerated pre-treatment of the metal prior to delivery. The welding specification, mechanical fixing details and panel transportation and installation strategy was therefore developed through close collaboration between fabricator and design team – ensuring, for example, that site joints and lifting eyes could be fully incorporated into the design. Similarly, the team has also been able to ensure the panels could be disassembled if required for long term maintenance and, if necessary, eventual recycling in the future.

Moxon fraserburgh © simon kennedy 101

Moxon fraserburgh © simon kennedy 101

Source: Simon Kennedy

Each cassette panel is made from several 6mm thick Cor-Ten steel sheets, sized to allow the protective layer of oxidation to develop on both sides while maintaining a structural core. 15mm-thick stiffeners are hit and miss welded to the reverse – alternated during welding so the heat didn’t warp the front sheets – consistent ‘flatness’ across the large sheet format being paramount. The panels were then blast cleaned to advance the pre-weathering process which was accelerated prior to transport to ensure a stable protective layer. Initially the characteristic bright orange, the first oxidation highlighted marks and streaks produced during storage which have remained visible during installation. While temporary, the fabrication process is made public, displayed on the side of the building.

Moxon fraserburgh © simon kennedy 171

Moxon fraserburgh © simon kennedy 171

Source: Simon Kennedy

The cassettes in front of the glazing are perforated with a pattern selected to permit light into the building but also protect from overlooking into the surrounding residential flats. The apertures widen next to the stair flights and landings to allow framed views out to Kinnaird Head Lighthouse and the fishing port. The pattern takes cues from the spacing of astragals on the adjacent stained-glass windows; ships’ gratings in the harbour; and the weave of fishing nets and textiles.

Use of a raw material with strong references to the local maritime industry was key to the initial proposals for the building and its development through to the completed envelope is the product of a close working relationship with the client and fabricator – realising the design without compromising on quality and championing local specialist businesses in the process.

Andrew Macpherson, project architect, Moxon Architects Limited

Moxon fraserburgh © simon kennedy 133

Moxon fraserburgh © simon kennedy 133

Source: Simon Kennedy

Client’s View

The aim of this project was to deliver economic, social and physical regeneration outcomes in an area that suffers from high levels of deprivation and disadvantage. The restoration work secures the future of two listed buildings, one of which had been empty and boarded up for several years, and the other much, underused and in need of modernisation. Located in the heart of the town centre Conservation Area, The Faithlie Centre now provides modern and welcoming facilities for use by community groups and businesses, as well as a local hub for public access to Council services. The new facility will also be used to host and be part of local events. By providing an innovative community and enterprise resource, the Centre will help to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of the Fraserburgh economy for the future. It is delivering on several of the Council’s strategic priorities including supporting a strong, sustainable, diverse and successful economy, working to reduce poverty and inequalities within our communities and protecting our special environment.

Ground floor plan

Ground floor plan

Source: Moxon Architects

Ground floor plan

The building encapsulates numerous skilled trades from the replacement of the domed sarking and tapered lead cladding on the tower to the sourcing and carving of the stone indents and sculpture, along with replacement of internal ‘listed’ joinery. However, as you are drawn through the building, the impressive new stair tower with the glimpses of the streetscape and harbour beyond through the steel cladding is the highlight. The weathering steel is a fitting response to the fishing and off-shore industrial heritage of Fraserburgh.

Moxon Architects were dedicated in their attention to detail and their design ethos of simplicity and quality. The Design Team, led by Moxon Architects, worked tirelessly to simplify details and to work closely with contractors and tradesmen. This was particularly evident in the design and installation of the steel stair and weathering steel cladding.

Maureen Corley, planning service manager, Aberdeenshire Council

The faithlie centre, fraserburgh drawings © moxon architects  page 5

The faithlie centre, fraserburgh drawings © moxon architects page 5

Source: Moxon Architects

Axonometrics

Project data

Start on site April 2019
Completion date February 2020
Gross Internal Area 907m²
Gross External Area 1133m²
Form of Contract SBCC Standard Building Contract
Contract Value of Project £2.5m
Cost per Square Metre £2,207/m² (GEA)
Architect and Principle Designer Moxon Architects
Client Aberdeenshire Council
Structural Engineer David Narro Associates
M&E Engineer TUV-SUD
QS Faithful + Gould
Health and Safety Advisor GWS Architects
Conservation Architect Alan S Marshall
Main Contractor Morrison Construction
Clerk of Works Aberdeenshire Council

  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • Sharp masonry, protruding - health and safety?

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  • Image 23/40 doe portray the jagged stonework as unwise in an otherwise apparently carefully considered project.
    Hopefully the care in detailing the Cor-Ten extended to ensuring that the weathering process doesn't stain adjoining surfaces.
    Reassuring to see that there was a real live clerk of works.

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