Steel windows meet aesthetic aspirations at St Albans Cathedral


Sympathetically connecting the grade I listed cathedral building to its 1980s chapter house, the new welcome centre at St Albans Cathedral provides a visitor entrance, retail space, interpretation and exhibition areas and other facilities. The architecture is respectfully understated with steel windows by Steel Window Association member, Steel Window Services and Supplies helping to achieve the overall aesthetic.

The welcome centre is designed by conservation architect Simpson & Brown. The context of the historic Norman cathedral site demanded careful consideration of the materials palette. The existing cathedral and chapter house buildings feature metal-framed and leaded windows. It was felt that the new welcome centre extension should complement the existing fabric yet be easily recognisable as a modern intervention.

The new extension is low-slung so as not to compete with the massing of the cathedral building. An important feature of the front facade is a triptych of vertical steel windows which, at over 2.5m high, are mirrored on the opposite side of the building.

Perimeter roof glazing provides a light touch connection between new and old while giving an airy feel to the internal spaces. To achieve this, Steel Window Services and Supplies provided a high-level window of 12 sections measuring some 14m wide and 670mm high and another of four sections measuring over 3m wide and 935mm high.

In all, eight W40 composite windows and one W20 standard metal window were supplied, with installation on site taking around two weeks. All the windows were hot dipped galvanised and finished with a factory applied powder coating in RAL 7016, anthracite grey.

Catriona O’Neill, associate architect for Simpson & Brown, comments: “We specified the steel framed windows from Steel Window Services as the products available allowed us to exceed modern thermal efficiency requirements and provide natural ventilation whilst also meeting aesthetic aspirations for the two feature triptychs of tall, slim window openings. These open up views between the main visitor entrance at the east and the historic cloisters site at the west.”

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