How we built the Core
- Based on Fibonacci principles
- Ethically sourced materials
- Solar panels
We designed the Core, home to our Invisible Worlds exhibition, using natural forms (biomimicry) and sustainable construction. The Core was first built in 2005 and re-imagined in 2017/18 with the new major exhibition and substantial changes to the building. This included a new Exhibitions Gallery, Café, Laboratory and two play areas in addition to a series of new art and exhibit installations. The building has also been opened up, enabling views across all floors.
Designed by Jolyon Brewis of Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners, the Core is based on nature's architecture - what we call 'biomimcry'.
It incorporates a central trunk and canopy roof that shades the ground and harvests the sun. The most striking feature - the roof created from an intricate web of curved timber beams - is based on Fibonacci spirals, a pattern found in many natural forms including the seeds of a sunflower head, pine cones and snail shells.
At the centre of the Core sits Peter Randall-Page's monumental Seed sculpture based on these same natural patterns.
We worked with mechanical and electrical consultants Buro Happold to reduce the environmental impact of the building as much as possible. Innovative features include:
- The walls are super-insulated with Warmcel, made from recycled newspapers
- A lobby reduces heat loss through the front door
- Underground tubes warm the air before it enters the building
- Photovoltaic panels on the roof provide electricity, although the building is mainly powered through a renewable energy tariff.
Ethically sourced materials
- The beams are made of Forest Stewardship Council-certified Red Spruce. They're constructed using a technique known as Glulam (glue-laminated layers of timber), a strong material whose offcuts are used as a fuel.
- The metal roof comes from a copper mine with one of the highest environmental and social standards in the world, the Bingham Canyon, owned by US-based Kennecott Utah Copper Company. We worked closely with our partners at international minerals company Rio Tinto to source the copper specially.
- The green tiles in the floor were originally Heineken bottles, the entrance mats are made from recycled truck tyres, and the cafe floor is made up of reclaimed wood.
Water saving measures
- Automatic taps save water (by turning themselves off)
Choosing the right materials actually starts with clever design. With the Core, we tried to reduce the amount of cement needed in the first place, because we know that producing cement is a carbon-intensive process. So the project team designed it out where possible; for example, removing the need for concrete support pillars.
For the cement that we did need we opted for Portland cement, because the producers were committed to the ongoing reduction of CO2 in the manufacturing process and because the cement could be delivered by rail.
We then sourced a recycled aggregate to make up the remaining 90% of the concrete (only 10% is actually cement). This was local China Clay industry waste, which came from not far away at all.
Image © Hufton+Crow