180-year-old university undergoes refurbishment

The 180-year-old Newcastle University campus underwent an extensive refurbishment, overseen by FaulknerBrowns Architects.

The durable solid surface material Hi-Macs has been used extensively in the five-storey Students Union.

The architects worked closely on the specification and design with Newcastle University project chief and executive of the students union, Simon Gerry.


Gerry’s brief was for a material that would be highly durable and stand up to heavy use over a number of years. He was also looking for a material that would not wear, look tired or deteriorate in terms of appearance or performance.

A major challenge to FaulknerBrowns and fabricators Multi-Surface Fabrications (MSF) of County Durham was that the refurbishment was being carried out in a listed building. This meant the integral structure and fabric had to remain intact so, for instance, the cladding of the main staircase was only allowed if it retained the original feature.

To create a clean and contemporary style, most of the work was in Nordic White although some Cima from the Volcanics Collection along with an amount of solid black was also used.

MSF also worked with shop fitting firm Newman Scott to install over 40 columns including 4.6m tall columns spanning two floors in the main bar area.

Other Hi-Macs installations for the refurbishment project included the main reception desk, a number of computer desks and print stations, coffee shop counters, 50 coffee table tops, shop fittings in the Union shop and radiator casings throughout the building.

Hi-Macs is a natural stone acrylic which is easily machined, thermoformed to any 3D shape and can be joined without any visual seams. It is non-porous and impervious to moisture, colour fast and very easy to clean and maintain making it totally hygienic.

Alistair Stripp – Project director for FaulknerBrowns said: “Hi-Macs is a windfall for designers. For FaulknerBrowns, skills like these on the doorstep are a large part of the Newcastle University Students Union being an Award winning scheme.”

Architects: FaulknerBrowns Architects, United Kingdom Fabricator: Multi-Surface Fabrications Ltd, United Kingdom Material: Nordic White, Cima, Black

Photos: Cadzow Pelosi

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