The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, is the iconic centre piece of a multi-million pound regeneration project in the heart of South Shields. Arranged as a modern rotunda, The Word offers innovative facilities designed to inspire creative ideas and nurture a love of learning. Rockfon® Mono® Acoustic seamless ceiling system is installed throughout to meet both the aesthetic and acoustic requirements which helped the project win the prestigious Public Sector Interiors Project of the Year award in the 2016 Mixology North Awards.
“The Word has set the standard for Design thinking in the UK.” David Lindley, Executive Director at Designing Libraries.
The Word is designed to be South Shields’ gateway to cultural, social and business knowledge, and to be exciting. The area’s industrial heritage plays a role in helping to realise this ambition and is woven into the fabric of the building. Salt harvesting in the 3rd century is represented in the fine quartz aggregate of the white pre-cast concrete. The circular glass patterns are symbolised by the feature chandelier in the main atrium. Coal mining is expressed in the external black scrapped concrete plinth. And shipbuilding is portrayed in the large glass window structures and the red oxide primer used throughout the building.
Inside, the circular façade is likened to the pages of a book inviting the reader into the depths of creative writing, of knowledge, of delightful storytelling, of individuality and ideas. The interior has an engaging and open plan design to encourage visitors to explore all the areas available and interact with the different activities on offer. Large group informal pursuits are arranged in the central forum space with more studious and individual spaces arranged towards the perimeter of the building.
Visitors to The Word are welcomed in the building’s triple height central atrium which forms the focal point of the building. Inside the atrium, visitors can take in excellent views of all four levels of the building and beyond towards the water front and the River Tyne. A stunning feature staircase sits in the heart of the atrium and leads to circular galleries on all floors. The atrium is a busy area which has a number of functions: library teams advise customers, there’s a tourist information point and AV monitors provide access to social media and event programmes.
Steve Dickson, Senior Director at FaulknerBrowns Architects, specified Rockfon for the project and explained why:
“In terms of selecting Rockfon it really was a natural progression for us as we’d used the product successfully in a previous project. The key to our specification was that we wanted a monolithic product that is also Class A rated acoustically, so Mono Acoustic was perfect.
Rockfon Mono Acoustic is installed around the perimeter of the galleries to help create a homogenous and continuous ribbon around the circular atria of the building which enhances the atrium’s stylish, contemporary interior design.”
Rockfon Mono Acoustic is a unique product which combines the elegance of a seamless ceiling with high performance sound absorption, previously thought only possible with modular suspended ceilings. To create a continuous finish, the ceiling tiles are installed and then finished with an impressive acoustic render to create an elegant, smooth-white, monolithic surface.
John Osborne, Senior Project Manager at Bowmer & Kirkland, was impressed with how well Rockfon Mono Acoustic enhances the design scheme. “Aesthetically it sits so comfortably in the building and complements the surroundings, specifically how it curves around the central atrium space seamlessly, almost like a halo.”
The atrium’s interior features a mixture of surfaces including glazing and concrete which have the potential to generate unwanted noise. To counter this, Mono Acoustic provides Class A sound absorption which significantly decreases echo and reverberation levels, creating a relaxed environment where visitors can converse with ease.
John Osborne is also impressed with the acoustic performance offered by Rockfon Mono Acoustic which exceeded the demanding requirements stipulated in the building specification. ‘The system’s acoustic performance is unrivalled. We carried out stringent post completion acoustic testing with our acoustician and all areas tested passed with flying colours. The client team are over the moon with the building and have been quoted saying the quality is the best they have ever had, which is testimony to our Client and Architect’s vision.”
Daniel Reilly at Reilly Ceiling and Drywall installed Rockfon Mono Acoustic and was impressed with its versatility: “The Rockfon Mono acoustic ceiling was chosen for this project because it offers the best performing sound absorption with a monolithic finish on the market. It is a ceiling system that provides complete flexibility and design freedom. Approximately 1100m² Rockfon Mono Acoustic were fitted around the curved bulkheads which mirror the shape of the concrete building to create the central atrium.”
Rockfon Mono Acoustic tiles are installed using a Chicago Metallic suspension system or can be directly mounted on existing ceilings and walls. The ceiling offers Class A2 fire protection and dimensional stability at up to 100% relative humidity, and allows for easy incorporation of lighting, air conditioning and ventilation systems. It is suitable for new builds or refurbishment projects.
The Word has been very well received. Over 23,000 people visited in the first week. Local author, Ann Cleaves recognised its contribution to the town saying, “thanks to the architects, councillors and librarians who created The Word – performance space, exhibition hall and my dream library.”
Rockfon specialise in manufacturing ceiling systems that provide acoustic control whilst at the same time enhance the character of the architecture and interior design.