November 2013

Following a £6.3 million renovation project, The Wilson – Cheltenham’s Art Gallery & Museum – has opened to national acclaim, featuring a unique solar shading solution from Levolux.

Architects from Berman Guedes Stretton were awarded the task of designing an extension to the art gallery and museum, now known as ‘The Wilson’, back in 2007 following a RIBA Design Competition. Having successfully negotiated a challenging planning process, including gaining Conservation Area approval, the eagerly anticipated development has finally been realised.

The Wilson Cheltenham1 200 x 200The four-storey building extends the art gallery and museum, accommodating a new main entrance, galleries for temporary and permanent exhibitions, storage and workshop areas, a café and a roof terrace. The landmark building also becomes home to the town’s tourist information office.

The building’s south-facing elevation, with its modern glazed exterior, required an effective form of solar control to protect delicate artefacts against exposure to direct sunlight and to ensure galleries and circulation areas remain naturally lit, without succumbing to excessive solar heat gain. By limiting the need for mechanical cooling and air conditioning, the solar shading solution will also help to reduce carbon emissions and minimise running costs.

The Wilson Cheltenham2 200 x 200Levolux, the UK’s leading solar shading and screening specialist, was invited to develop a comprehensive solution, comprising an arrangement of fixed Louvres applied horizontally across the façade, along with a series of internal double roller blinds. While the external Louvres provide effective shading, they were also required to appear sympathetic to the existing 19th century period architecture that the area is renowned for.

Working closely with the architects, Levolux helped to translate the client’s initial plans, into a cost-effective solution. Levolux’s final design, which satisfies project specific requirements, includes the use of tubular ceramic ‘baguettes’ to reflect the site’s heritage in arts and crafts.

The Wilson Cheltenham3 200 x 200In total, Levolux installed 194 tubular ceramic louvres, each measuring 75mm in diameter. The ceramic louvres, which were supplied with a white gloss, glazed finish, are reinforced by a stainless steel bar running through the centre of each louvre. The louvres are fixed horizontally, incorporated into four vertical stacks, secured between profile-cut aluminium side plates.

Set to the left of the main entrance extending 9.6 metres from first floor to fourth floor level, is a 3.2 metre wide vertical stack of ceramic louvres fixed at a pitch of 300mm. The open pitch of the louvres is designed to maximise daylight levels throughout the entrance and into circulation areas and stairwells.

Immediately above the main entrance is a series of three vertical stacks of ceramic louvres, also extending 9.6 metres up to roof level. The louvres within these 2.4 metre wide vertical stacks are fixed at a pitch of just 150mm. This results in greater light exclusion where it is required for galleries, but still allows occupants to maintain visible contact with the outside.

The Wilson Cheltenham4 200 x 200To prevent unwanted ingress of birds through the louvred façade, particularly between louvres set at a pitch of 300mm, stainless steel wires have been incorporated. The horizontal, sprung loaded wires are secured to aluminium side plates.

The projecting louvred façade is completed by a 7.2 metre long by 480mm high aluminium sign, which was also provided by Levolux. Letters formed from 20mm thick foamex material, spell out the museum’s new name to the public.

The ceramic ‘baguette’ louvres are guaranteed to be weather and frost resistant, and will not fade over time, while all aluminium components are finished in a durable dark grey powder coating.

To complement the external Louvres, Levolux supplied and installed 21 of its internal Slimlock Blinds. Double roller blinds, which are either fully automated or electrically operated, have been applied to south-facing openings. This allows anti-glare fabric to be used in front, while a black-out fabric ensures maximum light exclusion, as required. The Black-Out fabric travels between low-profile side-guides, held securely by a ‘zip’ type insert.

The landmark building, which was named ‘The Wilson’ in honour of the explorer Dr Edward Wilson, officially opened on 5th October. The renovated and extended art gallery and museum, with its attractive ceramic louvres and double roller blinds, has been transformed into one of the countries’ most impressive venues for hosting national and international touring exhibitions.