SOAS and the Great Glass Roof
If there’s one thing the Sistine Chapel’s taught us it’s to cast our eyes upwards once in a while; impressive roofs are everywhere from the architectural splendour of the Sydney Opera House to the feat of engineering above Wimbledon’s Court 1. And the North Block is to be no exception.
The focal point of the new development will undoubtedly be the unique double-curvature glass roof over the central courtyard of Senate House. A single curvature creates a barrel-vault shape similar to a train station roof. But a double-curvature design resembles an enormous pillow, as seen for instance above the British Museum.
The roof will be made up of double-glazed panels, each with five layers of glass providing strength, light and heat reflective properties. The gardeners among us will know how hot a greenhouse can get – but there’s nothing to worry about with the SOAS glass roof. The intelligent ventilation design will ensure we won’t swelter on warm days. When the air gets too hot or stale, the building management system will pump cool air taken from around the building into the space.
The roof will be supported by internal columns, which touch the walls of Senate House but are not fixed to them, meaning there is limited damage to the listed building. The steel structure is being manufactured in northern Spain, and the glass panels are being heated and formed under a special process in a factory near Barcelona. The roof will be craned over the building in sections and assembled in the space – definitely a sight to look out for.
The glass will be almost completely colourless, allowing you to gaze upwards at the building’s classic façade, which is being scrubbed clean of the dirt it has accumulated over the years. The roof will create a bright and spacious piazza where people can relax or study in all but the open-air while protected from pesky rainclouds.