Pilkington's kaleidoscopic design showcased on the new Stoke-on-Trent headquarters

Pilkington create kaleidoscope of glass for landmark project

  • 28 Sep 2015

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A range of Pilkington Glass products have been specified as part of a landmark development at the heart of Stoke-on-Trent’s new Smithfield leisure and cultural quarter.

The new headquarters for Stoke-on-Trent’s City Council building have been designed to create a landmark that combined modern design with references to the city’s rich history of pottery manufacturing.

The resulting building features a vibrant kaleidoscopic design of coloured glass inspired by the work of world-renowned ceramic artist Clarice Cliff, who’s hometown was Stoke-on-Trent.

Five colours drawn from the pallet of Clarice Cliff designs are used, arranged along all of the façades in a geometric pattern reminiscent of the potter’s most iconic pieces.

Michael Metcalfe, Commercial Sales Manager at Pilkington said: “As with much modern architecture, this building is really defined externally by its glazed façade, and the top priority was to ensure that the colours were as vibrant as possible.

Standard practice when creating coloured double glazing units is to apply the colour to face four on the inner pane of glass. However, this can reduce the vibrancy of the colour, due to added reflections from the outer pane.”

Because of this, Pilkington required maximum brightness. It digitally screen-printed the colours onto face two – the inside of the outer sheet of glass. It also used Pilkington Optiwhite low-iron glass for the outer pane, which has a higher level of clarity, therefore allowing the colours to be seen in their truest form.

A second layer of ceramic paint was applied to the inside of the glass to ensure the colours appeared completely opaque.

Logistical challenges

The units comprising the façade all needed to be custom designed and manufactured to deliver the required pattern. 

The variation in colours across the façade meant that few units were identical to each other, and they had to be installed in a specific order.

An advanced glazing system supplied by German manufacturer Schüco was used, which allowed the façade to be constructed off-site in 3m by 1.5m sections.

Schüco provided an advanced glazing system, which allowed the façade to be developed off-site  in 3m by 1.5m sections.

Michael Metcalfe continued: “The project was like piecing together a very complicated jigsaw. As well as virtually no two units being the same, and many of them incorporating electronic-opening vents, there were also other variations between the façades. 

For example, for those sides of the building with the most exposure to the sun – the south west and south east elevations – glass with a higher solar control rating was used to reduce the amount of energy allowed in to prevent overheating during the summer.”

Exposed to the direct sunlight, the south-facing units used Pilkington InsulightTM Sun with 60/33 specification. The north-facing sides, for which solar gain was less of an issue, used 70-39 – a glass that transmits more solar energy and gives greater clarity.  

The kaliedoscopic façade at the new Pilkington headquarters.

The kaliedoscopic façade at the new Stoke-on-Trent Council headquarters.

The glazing was complicated yet further by the fact that on three sides the coloured panes are not flush with the clear glass but stepped out slightly.

Michael Metcalfe added: “The architects wanted the colours to not only be as bright as possible, but also to physically project out of the façade on three sides of the building, lending them further emphasis.”

The ground floor at the front of the building features double-height, single-unit windows that create a light and airy atrium space.

A 4.6m in height, and spanning the building’s width, preventing overheating from excess sunlight was vital. Therefore Pilkington InsightTM Sun 40/22 was used for these units.

A total of 4,300 square metres of glass was used in the building, 2,300 square metres of it transparent and 2,000 square metres featuring the screen-printed colours.


Pilkington United Kingdom Limited,
Greengate Works,
Sherdley Road,
St. Helens,
United Kingdom,
WA9 5 DZ

Phone: 01744 692000
Fax: 01744 692569

Visit Pilkington Building Products' website

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