"Designed and built in tune with an extension to the Albert Sloman library, the new Silberrad Student Centre and a new lakeside Square has created an important new front door to the University of Essex's Colchester campus. As the largest new building on the campus since 1965 it now provides an integrated learning centre, student media centre, one-stop-shop for student?s facility and a board room for the University Council.
During the development of the Student Centre, a key tenet of Patel Taylor's design was to deliver a robust frame in which the university could house an evolving programme of uses, the fit out flexibly responding without compromising the integrity of the building. The building is composed of stacked, cantilevered concrete floor slabs held apart by stone piers. Where these slabs slip apart, large volumes are created, including the 3 story atrium at the heart of the building into which the welded steel staircase springs.
Appearing as continuous flowing forms of plate steel, the sculptural steel staircase moves vertically and horizontally like falling ribbons, occupying the volume without compromising the sense of space. From its central location, the staircase is afforded with views through to the library and out to the lake alongside which the building sits. Assembled from sections welded in County Down by Environmental Fabrications, the structural skeleton between the steel ribbons is clad with oak treads, risers and soffits. Cloverleaf section oak handrails complete the composition, the material seeming warm to the touch in contrast with the cold steel and concrete."