Breath-taking Stepped Divide for University Auditorium
January 2020

Breath-taking Stepped Divide for University Auditorium

January 2020
Newcastle University’s Frederick Douglass Centre is a £34 million flagship building that delivers state-of-the-art teaching and learning facilities. Seating space in the impressive stepped auditorium is maximised thanks to Style’s installation of a world-first, bespoke set of moveable wall systems, that divide the room into two separate lecture halls, each seating 500 and 250 students.

Style worked in close collaboration with architect, Sheppard Robson, and contractor, Sir Robert McAlpine, to design a solution that is fully automatic, concurrently moving a double skin of Dorma Hüppe sliding wall panels, up through the tiered seating.
Surpassing the client’s demands for acoustic privacy between the divided areas, the final installation delivers a phenomenal 59db Dntw, on site tested performance.

Named in honour of the famous US anti-slavery campaigner, the Frederick Douglass Centre accommodates up to 2,200 students and includes a 200-seat lecture theatre, a range of seminar rooms and exhibition spaces, as well as the 750-seat auditorium.
As the auditorium was a particularly difficult room to divide, Style was brought in at a very early stage by Sheppard Robson, offering detailed advice on possible moveable wall solutions.

As a result of this, Style worked with manufacturing partners, Dorma Hüppe, to design two bespoke, fully automated, stepped acoustic moveable walls, based on the Variflex Comfortdrive K system. These are deployed back-to-back, with automatic acoustic seals engaging as each panel meets the next, perfectly closing off the tiered elements
and delivering acoustic privacy that far exceeds anyone’s expectations. A sophisticated impact safety system ensures staff and student safety during panel movement.

Andy Gibson, Style’s director for the north said, “Everything on this project was a world first, from the stepped design, the installation challenges, the building structure and the site tests.
“Working with the design team of Sheppard Robson and Sir Robert McAlpine has been a pleasure from start to finish,” continued Andy, “and the final solution is one that the University is thrilled with.

“Style’s installation engineers were absolutely pivotal to the success of this project, facing new challenges and demands every day, and we were proud to deliver, on time, our most challenging moveable wall installation to date.”